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Elkus v. Elkus

    Brief Fact Summary. Husband and wife divorced, but requested a ruling on whether wife’s celebrity status and career success was marital property subject to equitable distribution in the divorce proceeding.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To the extent that a supporting spouse’s efforts led to an increase in value of spouse’s career, he or she is entitled to a share in equitable distribution.

    Facts. The Defendant, Mr. Elkus (Defendant) and the Plaintiff, Mrs. Elkus (Plaintiff), were married for 17 years. At the beginning of their marriage, Plaintiff’s career was just beginning. During their marriage, Plaintiff’s career took off. Defendant traveled with his wife, was her voice coach, attended and critiqued most of her performances and alleged that he sacrificed his own promising career for his wife’s success. The parties stipulated to mutual judgments of divorce, but requested an appeal of the trial court’s determination that Plaintiff’s celebrity status and career did not constitute marital property.

    Issue. Whether a spouse’s career and or celebrity status constituted marital property subject to equitable distribution.

    Held. Reversed, to the extent that Defendant’s contributions and efforts led to an increase in the value of the Plaintiff’s career, this appreciation was a product of the marriage and subject to equitable distribution.
    Things of value acquired during marriage are marital property even though they may fall outside the scope of traditional property concepts. The statute does not mandate that the thing in question be transferable, assignable, or salable.
    The enhanced skills of an artist such as the Plaintiff, albeit growing from an innate talent, may be valued as marital property subject to equitable distribution.
    The nature and extent of the contribution by the spouse seeking equitable distribution, rather than the nature of the career, should determine whether it is marital property.

    Discussion. The court discussed other precedents with respect to medical degrees and law degrees. It discussed a decision where medical licenses were held to enhance the earning capacity of their holders and thus the supporting spouse was entitled to a share in their value. The court noted that Plaintiff had natural talent that was the basis of her success. However, her husband had done more than just provide childcare to facilitate her career.


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