Soltero v. Wyman Washington Supreme Court
Facts: Ms. Soltero and Mr. Wimer were involved in a meretricious relationship from 1992 to 2001. During that time Ms. Soltero worked for $18,000 per year at Mr. Wimer’s Honda dealership in Spokane. Mr. Wimer also owned several other associated motorcycle/ATV/snowmobile businesses. Ms. Soltero decorated the homes, worked in the gardens, and cooked for the couple and their guests. She did not contribute financially to the relationship but she “undertook all of the martial-like duties and obligations of the household.” During the time they were together, Mr. Wimer’s net-worth increased from $1.5 million to more than $4.5 million. After Mr. Wimer terminated their relationship by letter and re-married his ex-wife, Ms. Soltero brought a meretricious relationship claim seeking to divide their assets. The trial court found that the increase in Mr. Wimer’s net worth was due only to his own separate efforts and its own natural enhancement. Nonetheless, the court awarded Ms. Soltero $135,000 for the value of her services over the length of the meretricious relationship.
Held: In a meretricious relationship the court may only divide “marital-like” property. Unlike in a dissolution, the court does not have the power to divide a party’s separate property.
Analysis: Here, the court reversed the court’s award of $135,000 to Ms. Soltero because her services did not create any “marital-like” property for division. Although the trial court could have found that some portion of the increase in Mr. Wimer’s net worth was due to Ms. Soltero’s efforts and thus created marital-like property, in this case it specifically held that the increase in Mr. Wimer’s assets was due to his separate efforts. The court did leave open the possibility of using different theories of recovery as suggested in Justice Alexander’s concurring opinion in Vasquez v. Hawthorne, 145 Wn.2d 103 (2001).