Articles Posted in Equitable Distribution

Published on:

One of the most dramatically altered areas of family law in Florida in the last few years is the area related to same-sex committed relationships. Of course, same-sex couples only obtained the right to marry in Florida with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional. Before that time, these couples’ relationships had no recognition in Florida. Since that time, same-sex couples have been able both to marry and divorce in the Sunshine State. One thing that is true, whether you’re in an opposite- or same-sex relationship, is that if your non-spouse partner makes a promise to support you it helps to get it in writing. A knowledgeable Miami divorce attorney can help you as you address these and other family law issues.

The divorce of L.M. and P.C. was an example of a dispute over an alleged oral contract. The women lived together for a period of years before they married. Over the course of the relationship, each of the women executed estate planning documents that named the other as the beneficiary of her assets. According to P.C., though, the two partners generally kept their assets separate. While L.M. allegedly opened joint accounts, P.C. asserted that she was unaware of these accounts prior to the divorce. P.C.’s name was added to the deed and the mortgage on L.M.’s home, but that was done because the couple needed P.C.’s high credit score to get a better rate in refinancing the mortgage on that home.

The main point of contention in the women’s divorce was P.C.’s retirement. In the litigation, L.M. asked for one-half of P.C.’s pre-marital retirement earnings. L.M.’s arguments were that (contrary to P.C.’s assertion) they did pool their assets and that P.C. had promised that the couple would use her retirement “to fund their golden years.”

Published on:

When people think of equitable distribution in a divorce, they may associate it with a fairly simple and straightforward process in which each spouse gets 50% of the marital assets. Of course, achieving this outcome can involve some technical matters, such as determining values of assets and deciding what is or is not a marital asset. Then there are other potential complexities such as dividing a property where the value was (or is) less than the balance of the outstanding mortgages. Achieving an equitable distribution that fairly protects your interests, then, involves a detailed understanding of the law in Florida, which is why it pays to have representation from a knowledgeable Miami family law attorney.

The divorce of A.M. and K.M. was a case with an equitable distribution dispute. The couple married in the fall of 2011. Prior to the marriage, the wife had purchased a home that was worth $126,000 on the couple’s wedding day. The home had two mortgages on it. The first mortgage alone had a balance of $166,000. During the marriage, the couple lived in that home. They used marital assets to make payments on the first mortgage, but they paid nothing on the second mortgage. The husband also made renovations to the home during the marriage.

Three and a one-half years after the couple married, the wife filed for divorce. During that litigation process, the home was assigned a market value of $170,000. The first mortgage had a balance of $143,000 and the second mortgage had a balance of $57,000.

Published on:

Certainly, some divorcing spouses end their marriage under highly amicable and collegial circumstances. They may choose, even after divorcing, to live close to each other, or to maintain a friendship and an active role in each other’s lives. They may even choose to remain in business together. However, the law generally does not support forcing two divorcing spouses to remain in business together. Instead, a business that is a marital asset typically should be assessed a value and distributed as part of equitable distribution. Valuing and distributing a business is just one of many potentially complex elements of equitable distribution and a place where your case may benefit greatly from the knowledge and skill of an experienced Miami divorce attorney.

One less-than-amicable divorce that involved a business asset was the case of K.G. and C.G. At the end of the trial, the court entered a final judgment of dissolution that, among other things, declared the husband’s closely held business, a Miami Beach-based prosthetics company, to be a marital asset and gave each spouse a 50% ownership stake in the business. In making that ruling, the trial judge expressly stated that he was declining to assign a value to the prosthetics business.

The husband appealed that decision and he was able to get it reversed. The judge’s decision to make the divorcing spouses co-owners together of the prosthetics business was a legal error that was “apparent on the face” of the ruling. That’s because Florida law is very clear that “compelling former spouses to remain in business together ‘creates [an] intolerable situation’.” That’s because divorce should be about an opportunity for closure. Forcing two divorcing spouses to co-own a business is potentially bad for them personally, bad for their business and bad for something called “judicial economy,” as it raises one more circumstance under which the parties might decide to bring their disputes back into court (perhaps multiple times).

Published on:

In a divorce case, there are generally several issues that must be worked through. One of those issues is equitable distribution. While it may be easy to think of equitable distribution as the process that distributes marital assets, it is important to remember that marital debts must also be divided in equitable distribution. Keep in mind that, just because a piece of real estate is a non-marital asset, that does not automatically mean that the mortgage on that property is non-marital. You must be prepared to prove that the facts of your case demonstrate that the mortgage was non-marital and that the obligation for paying it back should not be included in your equitable distribution. To help in getting a truly fair equitable distribution, make sure that you have retained the services of a skilled South Florida divorce attorney who can help you get the distribution you deserve.

The divorce case of S.F. and T.F. was one that involved this type of dispute over the correct categorization of a mortgage. The spouses were married for nine years. During the divorce litigation, each spouse acknowledged the house located in an area of Pasco County called Mitchell Ranch was the husband’s separate property. The husband had purchased the home prior to the marriage and there was no mortgage on the property when he and S.F. wed.

While the spouses were married, they took out a $73,000 mortgage on the Mitchell Ranch property. According to the wife, all of the money was used to make improvements to the Mitchell Ranch house. The wife’s name never appeared on the note or on the property deed. At the end of the divorce trial, however, the judge concluded that the house was the husband’s separate property but that the mortgage was marital debt subject to equitable distribution.

Published on:

In any legal action, particularly something as personal as a family law case, you (as a party) hope and expect to receive a fair hearing from the court. So, what can you do if after the conclusion of your case you receive a final judgment that seems to indicate that your judge was less than adequately impartial or independent in his/her decision-making? Depending on the specific flaws in your judgment, you may have options. At many steps in the process, you may have avenues for seeking relief. These issues point out how it can help to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side who understands in great detail all of the possibilities that may exist to allow you to get justice.

The case of a husband named G.T. was an example of such a scenario. To better understand what happened in G.T.’s divorce, it is helpful to walk through the steps of a contested divorce. The court will hold a trial. Each spouse will receive the opportunity to present proof and witnesses, and to cross-examine the other spouse’s witnesses. Once the trial is over, a final judgment of dissolution of marriage must be entered by the court. It is not uncommon for one of the spouse’s attorneys to draft a proposed final judgment for the judge to review and sign.

Obviously, each spouse’s attorney is a zealous advocate for her client and will draft a proposed final judgment that includes findings of fact and conclusions of law that favor her client. The judge, typically, will use portions of what the attorney has written, discard others, and insert additional language that the judge created independently.

Published on:

When you find yourself facing a divorce, there may be several financial concerns on your mind. One of those concerns may be the distribution of marital assets that the court will order as part of the resolution of the divorce case. One thing that you should keep in mind as the case proceeds is that the distribution of marital assets may not necessarily be 50-50. The law requires an equitable distribution, but not an equal distribution, and there are many reasons why an unequal distribution might be equitable. To make sure you get what the law says you deserve, make sure you have retained knowledgeable South Florida divorce counsel to represent you.The divorce case of J.K. and E.P. was an example of an unequal equitable distribution. The spouses were two people who came into their marriage with two very different financial profiles. J.K. was a CPA who was deeply in debt. E.P. was a self-employed realtor, and she had amassed substantial wealth.

During the marriage, the couple bought a house for $412,000. The home’s down payment, in addition to the monthly mortgage payments, was made using the wife’s premarital assets. Also during the marriage, the couple remodeled the home, spending more than a half-million dollars on that project. Despite outlays of more than $910,000, the house was only worth $575,000, even after renovation. Nevertheless, when the couple divorced, the husband asserted that he was entitled to a 50% cut from the $163,000 appreciation in the value of the home.

In many situations, a spouse would be entitled to 50% of a marital asset. However, the law in Florida demands an equitable distribution of marital property, rather than an equal distribution of marital property. What that means, in plain English, is that the goal of the courts in distributing assets after a divorce is to arrive at a fair outcome, whether that outcome is equal or unequal.

Published on:

When your divorce involves two accomplished and successful professionals, and no children, it is very likely that the main issue to be resolved in the divorce case will be equitable distribution. It is important to understand that equitable distribution in Florida does not automatically mean equal distribution. However, in order to award one spouse a larger portion of the marital assets (and/or a smaller portion of the marital debts), there has to be the presence of certain special circumstances. Overcoming your spouse’s request for an unequal distribution can often mean proving that special circumstances don’t exist, or at least that the special circumstances recognized by the law aren’t present. When it comes to avoiding such an unsuccessful outcome, it pays to have representation from a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney.

The question of when an unequal distribution is (or isn’t) allowed was at the center of one divorce case from the Tampa Bay area. D.C. and C.C. were a couple whose marriage was a short-term one. They married in the summer of 2008 and separated late in 2012. The husband was a county government employee in Tampa who earned a stable income. The wife had been a teacher but, in January 2008, began attending law school full time, which she finished in December 2010. During her time in law school, the wife took out more than $91,000 in student loans.

As the couple had no children, the main issue in their divorce was the distribution of marital assets and liabilities. This couple’s trial judge decided that special circumstances did exist to warrant an unequal distribution. The husband had supported the wife “emotionally and financially in her career pursuit” and had been the pair’s primary income source during the marriage. Based on that, the court’s order established a significantly unequal distribution. If the distribution had been equal, the husband would have owed the wife an equalizing payment of $81,000. The court’s order obliged the wife to pay the husband $11,000, for a total difference of more than $92,000 (from what equal distribution would have meant).

Published on:

In an episode of a popular TV courtroom drama, a judge once declared that “it’s not about being right… it’s about doing right.” While that case and that judge were fictional, that statement acknowledged an important aspect of the law: having a successful case is about more than facts. It requires understanding the procedural requirements of the law and following them properly. For one Miami-Dade County wife, procedural shortcomings were what derailed her recent case. To make sure you avoid getting trapped in a procedural pitfall, be sure you have skilled Florida family law counsel working for you.

The wife and her husband reached an oral agreement to resolve the matters involved in their divorce. The agreement said that each spouse was entitled to keep his/her own separate property assets. One item that was covered by this settlement, and by that non-marital-asset provision, was the marital home, which the husband had bought and which he 100% owned. The trial court finalized the divorce, including the settlement agreement, on April 5, 2016. The wife did not contest that order.

The problem was that the wife and the couple’s two minor children lived in the home. The husband, after getting the divorce order, went back to court and filed an “unlawful detainer” action. That is a legal action you can file and pursue in order to evict someone from a property.

Published on:

Whether you have a marital estate with many high-dollar assets or your marital wealth is of more modest size, the equitable distribution of your assets can be a complex process. This part of your Florida divorce can be even more complicated when you have an asset that is significantly more valuable than any others and is also something that you do plan to sell during the divorce process. Any divorce can be challenging when it comes to the distribution of marital assets. To make sure that you get a fair portion of the assets, make sure to secure representation from a knowledgeable Miami divorce attorney.

Based upon information in a recent Miami Herald report, the divorce case of famed politician Rudy Giuliani could be this type of case. Giuliani and his third wife, Judith, married in 2003, with Judith recently filing for divorce. While the wife filed her divorce petition in Manhattan, and the case will likely go forward in New York, the divorce action has close legal ties to South Florida.

The spouses own a pair of high-dollar properties in Palm Beach. While both condos are highly valued, there is a significant difference between the values of the two properties. The Herald reported that the smaller of the two condos is worth about $600,000, while the larger one is valued at roughly $3.3 million.

Published on:

If you are a married person who owns a significant amount of separate property, the law in Florida when it comes to dividing assets between spouses could become extremely important to you if you should find yourself going through a divorce. Clearly, assets that are marital in nature (such as an asset bought during the marriage using marital funds) are part of the equation when it comes to equitable distribution. However, what happens to non-marital assets? Does each spouse simply receive all of his or her own assets? In Florida, the process is not quite as black-and-white as that, since the equitable distribution process must deal with not just the non-marital asset itself but also the extent of its appreciation during the marriage. If your divorce presents these kinds of issues, make sure you retain an experienced Florida equitable distribution attorney to handle your case.

As noted above, the equitable distribution of some assets can be straightforward. If, for example, your spouse and you bought a rental property during the marriage with marital funds, and both of you expended personal efforts during the marriage to maintain and improve that property, all of it (both the original asset and its appreciation in value) is likely to be marital in nature and subject to the equitable distribution process.

Similarly, a non-marital asset generally isn’t part of the equitable distribution equation. The appreciation of those assets, however, may be. For a non-marital asset that appreciates due to active effort put in by one or both spouses during the marriage, that appreciation is called active appreciation, and it is a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Using the rental property example, say that the husband updated the property, installing new fixtures, repainting the walls, and knocking out a wall to create a more desirable open concept floor-plan. Then, the increase in value that resulted from those renovations would be active appreciation. That’s a marital asset.