Marilynn Zupancic and her former partner Dianne were together for 30 years and planned on spending the rest of their lives together. Although they could not legally marry in their home state of Colorado, Marilynn and Dianne were partners in every respect. Marilynn, a teacher, supported Dianne while she was in graduate school, and they took out a mortgage on their jointly-owned home so that Dianne could pay off her school loans. In 2007, their relationship ended. If Marilynn and Dianne had been married, the law would have protected Marilynn, who could have been awarded payments from Dianne’s future income or earnings. Instead, Marilynn was left with full responsibility for the entire mortgage that had paid for Dianne’s education.
At the trial court, Marilynn asked to be compensated for repaying Dianne’s school loans. Instead, the trial court ordered Marilynn to pay Dianne the value of her equity in the home. NCLR represented Marilynn on appeal, together with Matthews & Matthews, P.C. In December, 2009, the Colorado Court of Appeal held that because the trial court found that Dianne had contributed more income to the couple’s household over the years, the trial court was not wrong to decline to compensate Marilynn for her contribution to Dianne’s education. Although the Court of Appeal did not rule in Marilynn’s favor based on the facts, the court’s ruling did affirm that when resolving property disputes between former same-sex partners, Colorado courts may look to the entire history of the relationship in order to distribute the couple’s property in a way that is fair to both parties.