My wife and I bought a house before we were married. Am I entitled to the money I spent remodeling the home since we weren’t married at the time?
Also, since I’m going at this pro se what language should I use? Should I just say I would like reimbursed for the money spent on remodeling prior to getting married?
Thank you for your inquiry. Let me preface this by saying that I am not licensed to practice law in Ohio and can therefore give you no specifics as to how the Ohio courts would answer your question. Therefore, my analysis of your question will use North Carolina law, which is the state I practice in.
Every state is different in terms of dividing property between the parties and how they deem some property as separate while other property as marital. In North Carolina, we use what is called Equitable Distribution which means there is a presumption of dividing the marital estate 50/50 but there are factors which could make the distribution uneven. However, North Carolina only has the power to distribute property that is marital. Premarital property is not divisible under the North Carolina Equitable Distribution Statute and therefore remains separate property.
In regard to the pre-marital efforts of remodeling the house, the North Carolina courts may see that as separate property and you would be entitled to that money spent. Of course, they may take the premarital contributions into account and also the post marital contributions and determine the proper ratios of the separate and martial estates. It is hard to say without looking at the whole estate and the timeline of events.
Keep in mind this is North Carolina law and a general overview of what North Carolina may do. Since you are in Ohio, you must go to an attorney licensed in Ohio and have them give you the specifics on Ohio law. Some states use any labor that is done in contemplation of marriage as martial. North Carolina does not use this concept and I am unsure if Ohio does or not.
In terms of language to use, that is up to you. I would try to use the pre-marriage remodeling as separate property and see if you can get reimbursed as a just, fair, and appropriate remedy. Perhaps she had pre-marital contributions that you can try to use and say that she gets reimbursed for her share and you get reimbursed for your remodeling.
Once again, I would advise you to see an attorney in Ohio and ask them the laws of Ohio and what your rights and obligations are since I am only licensed to practice law in North Carolina and can only advise you on what North Carolina would do.
Andrea Miller is a Staff Attorney in the Charlotte, N.C., office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C., where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Miller is licensed in the state of North Carolina. Ms. Miller received her undergraduate degree in History and her Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in law school, she on the Client Counseling Team for Moot Court and became a board member. Ms. Miller also participated in UNC’s Legal Assistance Clinic whereby she helped represent indigent clients obtain legal counsel primarily in the area of domestic relations.