Court Explains Requirements in Fashioning an Equitable Distribution in Florida

Typically, one of the biggest points of contention in divorce matters is what constitutes marital property and how such property should be divided. While courts have the discretion to divide assets in a fair and equitable manner, they must engage in certain steps prior to doing so; otherwise, their judgments may be subject to reversal. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling, in a divorce case in which the appellate court reversed the trial’s final ruling with regard to equitable distribution due to the court’s failure to make specific findings of fact regarding the assets. If you are in contemplating ending your marriage, it is advisable to consult a skillful Florida divorce attorney to assist you in seeking a fair dissolution.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife decided to end their marriage, and the wife filed for divorce. The couple had substantial assets, and the proceeding regarding the dissolution of the marriage lasted eight days. At the end of the trial, the court dissolved the marriage and developed an equitable distribution scheme, but failed to identify, value, and distribute the bulk of the parties’ liabilities and assets. The husband appealed.

Requirements in Fashioning an Equitable Distribution

Under Florida law, a court developing an equitable resolution of marital assets must make specific factual findings identifying the parties’ assets and liabilities and their classification and value. A final judgment issued absent such findings must be reversed. Thus, the court reversed the trial court judgment with regard to equitable distribution.

Further, the appellate court noted that one of the few assets the trial court valued was assessed improperly; specifically, it was incorrectly deemed a marital rather than separate asset. The court explained that the husband owned the subject property, but that marital income was used to pay the mortgage on the property during the marriage. Thus, the court found that there was commingling of marital and separate assets, which rendered the property a marital asset.

The appellate court disagreed with the trial court’s characterization of the property, finding that it did not lose its separate character. Specifically, the court explained that pursuant to Florida law, the use of marital income to pay a marital debt secured on a nonmarital property did not transform the entirety of an asset from nonmarital to marital. As such, the court found that the trial court erred in deeming the marital asset property. The court reversed the trial court ruling on the nature of the property and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Florida Attorney

Marital property is subject to equitable distribution in a Florida divorce, but it is not always clear what constitutes marital or separate assets. If you wish to end your marriage, it is critical to retain a lawyer to protect your interests. The knowledgeable Florida divorce attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. possess the skills and resources needed to help you seek a fair result, and we will fight diligently on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.

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