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Court Says Wife Had No Claim to South Florida Home that Lost Value During Couple’s Marriage

florida-property-001.jpgIn many divorce cases, assets are often declared to be marital property unless one spouse kept an asset completely separate. However, in one recent case, the 4th District Court of Appeal declared a couple’s home in Loxahatchee to be the husband’s separate property, even though the couple used their pooled incomes to pay the property’s mortgages and expenses. The ruling stated that, since the property was worth less when the couple divorced than when they got married, the wife’s contributions did not enhance the value of the property, meaning the home remained the husband’s alone.

Years before he married his wife, Lori, William Weaver purchased a property in Loxahatchee. When the couple decided to marry, Lori Weaver sold her house and obtained a profit of $40,000. During their marriage, the Weavers paid the monthly mortgage payments, as well as all expenses on the Loxahatchee home, using their pooled incomes.

When the Weavers divorced, the wife claimed that she had taken her $40,000 income from the sale of her house and spent it on the couple’s Loxahatchee home, meaning she was entitled to a $40,000 interest in that property. The trial court agreed.

The appeals court reversed that decision. The court concluded that the evidence presented in the lower court did not back up the wife’s claims. Instead of spending the $40,000 on the couple’s Loxahatchee home, the proof showed that this money went to pay for the couple’s wedding, honeymoon, motor home, and boat.

Of course, in many situations, the use of a couple’s pooled incomes to pay for a home’s mortgage payments and other expenses (as the Weavers did in this case) would by itself be enough to give the wife a claim on the property. Section 61.075(1)(g) of the Florida Statutes says that, when it comes to classifying property as marital or non-marital for equitable distribution, the court should analyze the “contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of” the property.

In the Weavers’ situation, the husband acquired the property in his name alone prior to the couple’s marriage. He kept the property in his name alone throughout the marriage. In that way, the wife never acquired an ownership interest in the property.

In many cases, homes will increase in value over time. If a home increases in value during the course of a marriage, and the couple pays for that home’s expenses using marital assets, both spouses have contributed to the enhancement of the property, and, by law, both spouses have an interest in the property for purposes of equitable distribution.

Real estate market forces worked against the wife in the Weaver case, though. The Loxahatchee home actually dropped in value during the span of the couple’s nine-year marriage. Since the Loxahatchee home did not increase in value, the use of the pooled incomes (including the wife’s income) did not enhance the property, so she held no interest in it for purposes of equitable distribution.

Although the wife lost her claim to an interest in the Loxahatchee home, that result could have been different if the home had increased in value during the marriage. The case still illustrates how non-marital properties can become marital assets. If you have questions about your separate property, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our knowledgeable attorneys can help you understand what the law of equitable distribution can mean for you and your assets.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Florida Wife Commingled Cash Gifts from Mom, Converting Them into Marital Assets, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 22, 2015
Dealing with Items One Spouse Sells During a Florida Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 13, 2015