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Home / Special Sections / Attorneys of the Year / 2022 Attorneys of the Year: Pooley v. Pooley
From left: Abby Sunberg, Michael P. Boulette, Seungwon Chung
From left: Abby Sunberg, Michael P. Boulette, Seungwon Chung

2022 Attorneys of the Year: Pooley v. Pooley

In September 2022, Michael P. Boulette, Seungwon R. Chung, and Abby N. Sunberg of Taft Stettinious & Hollister LLP won a Minnesota Supreme Court decision intended to protect disadvantaged spouses by ensuring district court supervision over the division of all their assets. The case involved a divorce decree that omitted the couple’s retirement accounts, their most valuable asset at the time of the divorce.

The case, Pooley v. Pooley, establishes the proper procedure for considering the division of omitted assets from joint petitions for marriage dissolution.

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court, Boulette argued on his client’s behalf that all assets must be disclosed and awarded in a decree so the district court may evaluate whether the overall division of property is fair and equitable, and that the court retains jurisdiction to later divide any omitted assets.

The Minnesota Supreme Court reaffirmed the district court’s obligation to ensure that stipulations between divorcing parties are fair and equitable, while allowing district courts to retain jurisdiction to divide omitted assets when parties try to bypass district court review with unwritten side agreements.

Boulette said Pooley v. Pooley was the first landmark case in more than 30 years “to definitively say what happens when a spouse’s lawyer leaves assets out of a divorce decree,” Boulette noted. “Also, it was the first case in an even longer period to discuss what it means for a court in Minnesota to stand as a third party in a divorce, and to what extent the court needs to be involved.”

The case was tried in district court in 2020, an appellate court ruling was issued in July 2021 and Boulette and his colleagues petitioned for review of the decision in September 2022.

Boulette is a partner with the firm’s Minneapolis Domestic Relations group. A recent addition to the firm, Chung took on much of the research, digging into understanding the statutory history and looking at how other states approach the issue and understanding the interplay of different areas of the law. A recent law school graduate, Sunberg also helped with the research.

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2022 here.

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