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Aesop’s Fable Finds Its Way Into the Courtroom

Grasshopper husband cannot claim the benefit of ant wife’s labors during the marriage…

A recent Arkansas decision determines that laziness precludes husband receiving the standard one-half interest in marital  property.  Arkansas law provides that in a divorce, the standard rule for division of property is that it should be divided equally between the parties. Unequal division by the divorce court is very much the exception, and before an unequal division can be sustained, Arkansas Code Annotated §9-12-315 requires the Court to consider nine factors before making an unequal division of property, and state with specificity in its  written opinion the Court’s reasons for the unequal division.

In the recently decided case of Grantham v. Lucas, 2011 Ark.App. 491, the Arkansas Court of Appeals reviewed a divorce between Jeryl Grantham and Gail Lucas, who had been married for ten years. Gail had accrued a substantial retirement fund during the marriage which, under the standard law, would be divided 50/50; a benefit which Mr. Lucas expected and requested from the trial court.

However, the trial court found that though Jeryl was a master plumber, he spent most of the marriage not working, due to his license being suspended for failure to pay child support, and sometimes by choice, which the court characterized as “purposely, chronically underemployed.”  On this basis, Jeryl was denied any interest in Gail’s retirement plan by the trial court, and the trial court’s decision was affirmed on appeal. This is instructive for both lawyers and clients facing a divorce where one spouse has been remarkably effective in playing the role of the lazy  grasshopper in Aesop’s Fable of the grasshopper and the ant.

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