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Asante v. Abban

Decided: July 26, 1989.

JOHN ASANTE, PLAINTIFF
v.
ELIZABETH ABBAN, DEFENDANT



Troast, J.s.c.

Troast

This case arises out of a dispute concerning the disposition of property jointly acquired by an engaged couple who never married. Plaintiff, John Asante, had been engaged to Benedicta Musey. Plaintiff and Benedicta Musey met in Accra, Ghana where they became engaged in November 1983. That engagement was broken off in the spring of 1984.

Some time after breaking off his engagement to Benedicta Musey, John became engaged to defendant, Elizabeth Abban, whom he had known since 1980. They became engaged in July 1985, and at a formal engagement party on July 20, 1985 the parties announced that they planned on a December 1985 wedding.

On May 13, 1985, John and Elizabeth signed a contract to purchase a home in Ridgewood, New Jersey for $172,000. John needed a home for his daughter by a previous marriage and he wanted her to attend school in Ridgewood.

Elizabeth contributed $6,000 towards the purchase of the property, however, she did not view it as a "business investment" nor would she have contributed the $6,000 except for the

parties' marriage plans. Elizabeth planned to reside in the house with John after they married. Although the parties were not yet married, Elizabeth believed she and John acquired ownership together as husband and wife.

The closing on the Ridgewood property took place on August 8, 1985, at which time John had Elizabeth's name set forth in the deed as a grantee, as a gesture of his love for her and in anticipation of their impending marriage. The balance of the funds required for closing, $43,000, was contributed by John. Both John and Elizabeth signed a note and gave a $129,000 mortgage for the balance of the purchase price. This court specifically finds the parties both intended to marry when they closed on August 8, 1985 and that they acted in good faith when they purchased the Ridgewood property believing they would soon marry and live there as husband and wife.

Some time after the August 8, 1985 closing, John and his daughter by a previous marriage moved into the Ridgewood residence. In September 1985, the engagement between John and Elizabeth was broken off. Benedicta Musey had returned to the United States in September 1985 and John realized that he should resume a relationship with his prior fiancee, Benedicta. The court finds no fraud on John's part.

Defendant Elizabeth neither took possession nor requested possession of the property and the court finds that under the facts and circumstances of the case there was no ouster. Cf. Reitmeier v. Kalinoski, 631 F. Supp. 565, 579-581 (D.N.J.1986). In October 1985, John repaid $6,000 to Elizabeth by a check which referred to a "refund." Elizabeth never occupied the premises nor has she ever contributed any monies toward its mortgage, maintenance costs or repairs. Benedicta moved into the Ridgewood premises and married John in 1987. Elizabeth also married another in 1987.

In this action defendant, Elizabeth Abban, sought partition, a sale of the property and her share of the proceeds of a partition sale. Defendant moved for partial summary judgment on her

partition claim before the Chancery Division. At that time John was willing to refinance the Ridgewood property where he presently resides with his family and agreed to relieve Elizabeth of liability on the note and mortgage. The Chancery Division denied ...


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