Judge rules man must pay brother before evicting him from shared home

Casper Star Tribune/December 4, 2004

Salt Lake City -- A man trying to evict his brother from the upstairs portion of their shared home in a polygamist community on the Utah-Arizona border will have to pay to do it.

An Arizona judge ruled Friday that Ross Chatwin will have reimburse his brother for improvements made to the upstairs portion of the house in Colorado City, Ariz., the Deseret Morning News reported Saturday.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge James Chavez ruled it would be ''inequitable'' for Chatwin to take possession of the upper level of the house without compensating his brother, Steven, for improvements he made.

''This decision by Judge Chavez is consistent with other decisions he has made regarding trust property,'' said Rod Parker, attorney for the home's landowner, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its United Effort Plan Trust.

Ross Chatwin and his wife, Lori, live in the basement of the house with their six children, while Steven Chatwin lives in the upper level with his wife and children.

Ross Chatwin was excommunicated from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which owns much of the twin communities of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, including the property on which Ross Chatwin's home was built.

In May, an Arizona court ruled that Ross Chatwin has the right to retain the residence until he receives just compensation for his investments in the residence, a figure he estimates at $130,000.

''Well, I don't have a problem with that (the decision),'' Ross Chatwin told the newspaper Friday after hearing of the judge's ruling. ''I think what we'll do now is weigh all our options and then make a careful decision.''

Among his options is to challenge any amount his brother may say he invested in the upstairs portion of the home.

''I don't want to just pay some amount that Steven says; he's going to have to prove it,'' said Ross Chatwin.

The FLDS church assigns property to its male members in the two communities, thought to be home to about 10,000 church members. The FLDS teaches polygamy as one of its central tenets.

All church members are considered tenants at will and can be evicted if they leave the church or fail to follow its teachings, according to United Effort Plan Trust documents.

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