Thiele v. ThieleAnnotate this Case
Angela and Kim Thiele married in February 2009 and separated in January 2016. Angela filed for divorce in February 2016. Kim received a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in 1980. After working as an employee in another doctor’s practice, he established his own professional corporation in 2001; he worked as an independent contractor at other practices for the next ten years. During this time his business had few fixed assets because the doctors that employed him covered most of the overhead of running the medical practice. Kim’s business received 30% of the revenue he brought in from seeing patients, which Kim deposited into the corporation’s bank account. Business expenses were paid out of the corporate bank account, as was Kim’s salary. In 2011 Kim decided to open his own practice rather than continue to work as an independent contractor. He obtained a business license and hired an office manager to help him with the transition. At about the same time Angela contributed $15,000 of her own funds to the marital estate. She helped Kim decorate the office, and she participated in discussions with Kim about taking over another doctor’s practice or starting his own practice. Angela also worked as a receptionist and administrative assistant, answering the phone, greeting patients, and performing other administrative tasks as needed. The primary dispute in the couple's divorce centered on the classification of Kim's practice as separate or marital property. The superior court determined that the practice had neither transmuted nor actively appreciated during marriage and therefore was not marital property. The court also declined to award Angela attorney’s fees or reimbursement for the cost of an expert witness. Angela appealed the court’s determination that the medical practice was not marital property and its refusal to award attorney’s fees or costs. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the trial court on both issues.