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Multi-Million Dollar Appreciation of Florida Husband’s Stock Portfolio Was 100% a Marital Asset Because He Lacked Evidence Proving Otherwise

When your spouse and you are involved in a dispute over the equitable distribution of your marital assets, there are many different areas in which you’ll need to present evidence in order to achieve a successful result. For every determination you want a judge to make, you need to be sure you have the proof necessary to achieve that outcome. Making sure that your case has the right type and right amount of the right evidence is just one of many areas in which an experienced Florida equitable distribution attorney can help.

One example of just how much proof may be needed was the result in the case of a couple named William and Nancy. The pair wed in early 2003 but separated in late 2006. A few months later, William discovered that Nancy was actually 10 years older than what she told him she was when they met (and what she stated on the couple’s marriage application).

At the divorce trial, the main issue was the equitable distribution of the husband’s substantial stock portfolio. That portfolio had appreciated by more than $3.6 million during the marriage, and the wife had argued to the trial judge that this entire $3.6 million sum was a marital asset that should be equitably distributed.

The trial court concluded that $2.8 million of that $3.6 million appreciation was a marital asset. Normally, equitable distributions are equal ones. In special circumstances, though, a trial judge can order an unequal distribution. That happened here, when the judge gave the husband $1.8 million of the appreciation of the stock portfolio, while the wife got only $1.0 million. One of the reasons, according to the judge, why special circumstances existed was the wife’s dishonesty.

The husband appealed, arguing that the wife should have received even less. Specifically, he argued that the trial court should have accounted for growth in the portfolio that was passive and, therefore, not a marital asset. (The law says that appreciation of a non-marital asset that is a result of a spouse’s active performance during the marriage is a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Appreciation that results from outside factors, like overall market forces, is called passive and is not a marital asset.)

When you are trying to convince a judge that an asset’s appreciation is passive rather than a marital asset, you have the burden of proving it and convincing the court. In William’s case, he suggested to the trial judge that the court use the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock market index as the “benchmark” for assessing the amount of stock appreciation that was passive and took place solely due to general market forces. However, he never presented proof of why the S&P 500 was an appropriate benchmark for analyzing overall market forces and calculating passive appreciation. Without that necessary evidence, he didn’t meet his burden of proof, and the trial judge was entitled to rule that none of the appreciation was passive, and, thus, none was non-marital.

William and Nancy’s divorce touches on some important issues in equitable distribution cases. It shows a scenario in which an equitable distribution may also be an unequal distribution. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of having ample evidence to support every conclusion you want the court to make. Making sure you have these evidentiary bases covered is vital, especially when there are literally millions on the line.

For your divorce and equitable distribution case or other family law needs, retain strong legal counsel who can provide the advocacy you need. Experienced Miami family law attorney Sara Saba has been providing strong and dependable advice and representation for her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated solely to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

Proving that an Appreciation of a Non-Marital Business Asset is a Marital Asset in Florida, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 27, 2018

Dealing with Equitable Distribution in Florida as a Business Owner Going Through a Divorce, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 16, 2018