Employee Bonuses Received After Marriage
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The concept that bonuses are acquired when earned, not when physically received, also applies to bonuses earned near the beginning of the marriage. Those bonuses are separate property to the extent that they are compensation for services rendered before the marriage began. See Nowell v. Nowell, 31 Ark. App. 78, 787 S.W.2d 698 (1990) (bonus earned before the marriage was separate property); Sanders v. Sanders, 933 S.W.2d 898 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996) (bonus received during the marriage for services provided before the marriage was separate property); Willets v. Willets, 247 A.D.2d 288, 668 N.Y.S.2d 623 (1998) (options awarded to husband as compensation for premarital performance on certain deals were separate property).
In states which permit the division of property acquired before the marriage, a bonus for premarital services is divisible property. But the fact that the bonus was acquired before the marriage is one factor supporting an unequal division. See In re Marriage of Dieger, 584 N.W.2d 567 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998) (where husband received stock for long service to employer, some of which was premarital, proper to award wife a reduced interest; premarital property is marital under Iowa law).
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