A House Divided

Evangeline bought a house on Brandywine Street in D.C. in 1967 for $26,950.  In 1974 she married David and he moved into her house.  David paid the mortgage during the marriage until 1986.

At their divorce Evangline claimed the property was all hers under D.C. Code § 16-910(a) (1981), which provides that property acquired prior to the marriage is the sole and separate property of the spouse who originally owned it and must be assigned to that spouse upon divorce.

The trial court awarded David a 50% interest in the house.  Evangeline appealed and the DC Court of appeals reversed in part.  The statute it said prohibits the divorce judge from giving David a legal interest in the house.  The court could not transfer title to premarital property and therefore, it must remain in Evangeline’s name.  However, the judge could give David an equitable interest in the house.

The court then instructed the trial judge to determine a dollar amount of that interest, not a percentage, based on David’s contributions and appreciation during the marriage.   Yeldell v. Yeldell, 551 A.2d 832 (1988)