Marital Property Prize Division
Scott Dole of Vancouver, Washington and his wife Carrie had been going through an on-again, off-again divorce since the Mrs. had filed a petition for dissolution back in September of 2008. By fall of 2009 the couple was partially reconciled and Carrie had moved back into the Dole home and that’s when Scott’s good luck caused a problem.
Scott became a contestant on the TV game show the “Wheel of Fortune” at Carrie’s suggestion and as luck would have it, Scott turned out to be a winner and bagged $51,600 in prize money. However, the happy couple’s excitement was short lived as one month later Carrie Dole moved out of the house and once again filed for divorce. Of course, Scott’s game show prize money immediately became an issue of contention and was placed into escrow in a local bank.
Since Washington is a community property state, the issue argued before the Clark County Superior Court was whether or not the prize money was subject to the state’s community-property law mandating equal separation of assets, or whether it was just Scott Dole’s property alone.
In Clark County Superior Court, Judge James Rulli heard arguments saying the prize money was acquired when both parties were living together as husband and wife back in October of 200. Because Carrie Dole had traveled with husband Scott to the TV game show and had stayed with him at a hotel during the show, Judge Rulli found that any arguments claimant the marriage was defunct were not accurate. The judge ruled that regardless of whether or not Mrs. Dole had filed for divorce prior to the TV show, the couple were reconciled and living as husband and wife at the time of filming, and the winnings were subject to equal separation under the law.
Although Scott Dole’s game show payday was cut in half to just $25,800 after taxes, he was not unhappy and said that the decision was exactly what he had expected. In fact, Scott indicated that he would probably be donating his half of the cash to charity. Court documents also showed that Carrie Dole was not quite as generous and stated that she would use her half of the proceeds to pay bills because she lives on a tight budget as an elementary-school teacher. If the Doles had negotiated the 50-50 split on their own outside of the courtroom, they probably would have ended up with the same results and far fewer court costs.