Property Division in divorce can mean complex valuations are brought to court for a decision . . . but not always. Sometimes, breast augmentation surgery becomes a divisive issue. Recently, a state Supreme Court heard such a case. How are breasts equitably distributed?
Some call it “revenge plastic surgery”. Others call it the “Mommy Makeover”. There has been a long-term trend for women who have had breast augmentation surgery to separate and divorce, as compared to other women. There are now newer trends we’re seeing.
Men are also getting Daddy Makeovers. Men are enlarging their breasts, getting tummy tucks, and liposuction for body contouring for a more attractive physique.
Men and women are increasingly getting their physical enhancements done before filing for divorce. The new trend is for people considering divorce to plan for their divorce financially, emotionally and . . . physically!
The Great Divide
Erik Isaacson and Traci Isaacson were married in 1993, and have three children together. After filing for their divorce, they had to put together a schedule of assets and liabilities for the trial court to divide.
Erik put together his marital property list, and in it he included Traci’s breast implants, and valued the breast implants at $5,500. Traci listed them in her list, but assigned them no value.
The trial judge was not amused:
“[Breast implants are] the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen listed on a property and debt listing, next to the cat litter and cat box I had in my very first divorce, is going to be stricken.”
Hoping to avoid a painful distribution, the judge ruled on the cosmetic surgery:
I don’t know how you would expect me to award breast implants. Do you want me to have them cut out and given to Mr. Isaacson. . .? It’s absolutely nonsense. Do not waste the Court’s time with stuff like this.”
Erik appealed, arguing the trial judge improperly excluded the value of breast implants from the marital estate because it allowed Traci to spend marital funds on property she got to keep after the divorce.
Florida Property Division
I’ve written about property division before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law, but cosmetic surgery has not specifically been dealt with in Florida.
Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their non-marital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.
Marital assets and liabilities include, in part, assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them.
In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal.
One reason for an unequal distribution is the intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets.
Cosmetic surgery, and related medical bills, certainly fall into the category of marital liabilities. When a court has to determine which spouse pays for cosmetic surgery and related medical bills, a court may want to consider whether the procedure is medically necessary, or cosmetic, or a dissipation of assets.
Erik and Traci took their breast case to the North Dakota Supreme Court. Citing cases from Hawaii, Delaware and Kentucky, Erik asked the Supreme Court to hold Traci’s breasts were a marital asset, the value of which are subject to an equal division of the marital estate.
During oral argument, one justice commented:
“Do we have any lines to be drawn? Is dental work a marital asset? Is a hip replacement a marital asset?”
In the end, the high court found that Erik never argued that the expenditure of funds to obtain the breast implants was a dissipation of marital assets:
nor did he present the district court with any reason why breast implants should be considered a marital asset.
The Supreme Court found the trial judge did not err in excluding the breast implants as a marital asset, and Traci was saved from a very painful property division.
Was Isaacson v. Isaacson the most important decision in matrimonial law? Probably not. But, equitable distribution does raise a number of interesting questions.
Especially when it comes to the increasing trend to undergo cosmetic surgery as a part of divorce planning.
The North Dakota Supreme Court decision is here.