Miller v. Miller

Citation293 S.C. 69,358 S.E.2d 710
Decision Date19 January 1987
Docket NumberNo. 22756,22756
PartiesLawrence E. MILLER, Jr., Respondent, v. Ruth M. MILLER, Appellant. . Heard
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina

Robert B. Wallace and Paul E. Tinkler, both of Wallace and Tinkler, Charleston, for appellant.

Michael A. Molony, Charleston, for respondent.

NESS, Chief Justice:

Wife appeals an order which identified and distributed marital property and awarded wife child support and alimony. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

The parties were married for nineteen years and are the parents of three minor children. Husband is a career officer in the United States Navy. He spent a great deal of time during the marriage away from home on sea duty and other assignments. Wife was primarily responsible for raising the children, running the household, and other marital duties.

Prior to and during the marriage, wife received gifts of stock from her father which were titled only in her name. She maintained in her own name a Merrill Lynch account into which she deposited the income from her individually-owned stock. On several occasions, wife sold certain stock, channelled the proceeds through the account, and purchased new stock.

The dividend proceeds were also used to purchase Individual Retirement Accounts, to invest in two businesses in wife's name and occasionally for family purposes; i.e., vacations, purchases, etc.

The trial judge determined stocks given to wife by her father or directly derived from that stock were wife's separate property. He ruled the stocks, IRAs, and business interests purchased with dividends from wife's stock were marital property subject to equitable distribution. Wife asserts this was error. 1 We agree.

Property that is nonmarital at the time of its acquisition retains its separate identity unless it is transmuted into marital property. Trimnal v. Trimnal, 287 S.C. 495, 339 S.E.2d 869 (1986). An unearned asset that is derived directly from nonmarital property also remains separate unless transmuted, as does property acquired in exchange for nonmarital property. See Hussey v. Hussey, 280 S.C. 418, 312 S.E.2d 267 (Ct.App.1984). Absent transmutation, the stocks, IRAs, and business interests purchased with unearned income from wife's nonmarital property constituted nonmarital property which is not subject to equitable distribution.

Wife asserts the trial judge erred in finding the Southern Pacific stock was marital property. The original source of this stock was a bonus check received by husband from the Navy. The stock was titled jointly in husband's and wife's names. Wife testified husband gave her his interest in the Southern Pacific stock to repay a loan made to him from her separate funds. However, the stock certificates were never amended to reflect individual ownership, and the property was listed as a joint asset on the parties' income tax returns throughout the marriage.

The resolution of this issue depends upon the circumstances surrounding the loan and the purpose for which the loan was made. If made under circumstances evidencing a marital purpose, the loaned funds would have been transmuted into marital funds. See, Trimnal v. Trimnal, supra. See also, Burgess v. Burgess, 277 S.C. 283, 286 S.E.2d 142 (1982) [inter-spousal gifts]. On the other hand, an arms-length transaction between spouses involving separate funds may prevent transmutation from occurring.

In the present case, wife presented no evidence concerning the nature or purpose of the loan. She...

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18 cases
  • Calhoun v. Calhoun
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 17, 1998
    ...to the extent the increase resulted directly or indirectly from efforts of the other spouse during marriage. See also Miller v. Miller, 293 S.C. 69, 358 S.E.2d 710 (1987). In valuing the mountain home as of the date of marriage, the family court found the home was worth $74,588 in January 1......
  • Johnson v. Johnson
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 14, 1988
    ...is not part of the marital estate, he has the burden of presenting evidence to establish its nonmarital character. Miller v. Miller, 293 S.C. 69, 358 S.E.2d 710 (1987). Under the Act, property acquired by either party before the marriage is nonmarital property. Section 20-7-473(2); see also......
  • Myers v. Myers
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 20, 2011
    ...account, this does not automatically render the inherited funds or the F–150 truck to be marital property. See Miller v. Miller, 293 S.C. 69, 71, 358 S.E.2d 710, 711 (1987) (“An unearned asset that is derived directly from nonmarital property also remains separate unless transmuted, as does......
  • Smith v. Smith
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • December 9, 2009
    ...at the time of its acquisition retains its separate identity unless it becomes transmuted into marital property. Miller v. Miller, 293 S.C. 69, 71, 358 S.E.2d 710, 711 (1987). Nonmarital property may be transmuted into marital property if: (1) it becomes so commingled with marital property ......
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