PROVO -- The battle over the estate of deceased actor Gary Coleman ended Monday when a judge ruled in favor of his corporation's CEO.
The 18-page ruling written by Judge James Taylor sides with Anna Gray, who has cited Coleman's will naming her as an executor of his estate. It also states that Coleman's ex-wife Shannon Price failed to show during a jury trial last week that she maintained even the appearance of a marriage after her divorce.
The ruling explains that Price sought control over Coleman's estate based on a handwritten will Coleman produced during their marriage. The couple met in 2005, married and divorced. However, Price testified last week that she and Coleman continued living together as a couple after the divorce finalized.
Price argued that the continued relationship effectively made her Coleman's common-law wife and entitled her to control of his assets due to the handwritten will. Gray countered that the divorce nullified Coleman's handwritten will as well as Price's rights to the estate.
Coleman died in 2010 in Provo, and the lawsuit between the two women began soon after.
Monday's ruling focuses on Price's relationship to Coleman. According to Utah law, the ruling states, a common law marriage can be recognized by the state if:
• the participants are legally old enough to marry;
• are legally capable of marrying;
• have cohabited;
• both assumed marital duties; and
• maintained a reputation as a married couple.
Taylor's ruling concludes that Price and Coleman were clearly old enough to marry and capable of doing so. However, the ruling goes on to state that the relationship failed to meet the other requirements of a common-law marriage.
Taylor specifically points out that although Coleman and Price lived together, she also maintained a relationship with another man after her divorce. Ultimately, the ruling states, Price "did nothing to create an implication that there was an ongoing sexual relationship between them."
The ruling then explains that Price failed to prove that she and Coleman assumed marital duties. Later, the ruling adds that the couple "did little, if anything, to create a public impression that they were married."
"By design, the status of the relationship was kept private," Taylor writes. "When it suited their purpose, Mr. Coleman and Ms. Price either let others believe that they were spouses or specifically disclaimed a marriage."
The ruling presumably ends the case and leaves Gray in control of the estate. Price's attorney, Mitchell Maughan, said during the trial that the estate had little monetary worth and was limited to Coleman's ashes as well as the rights to some of his work.
Coleman rose to prominence as a child actor in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the television show "Diff'rent Strokes." He moved to Santaquin after working on the film "Church Ball" in 2005.
Maughan and Gray -- who represented herself -- could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.