A Florida man successfully appealed a trial court ruling that declared the couple’s home to be the wife’s separate property. The Fifth District Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s ruling, based upon the wording contained in the couple’s prenuptial agreement. That agreement gave each spouse the right to give away, sell, or distribute via estate planning tools his or her separate property. By transferring the title of the couple’s home from her name alone to the husband’s name alone, the wife completed exactly such a valid gift, which made the property the husband’s alone.
The couple in this case, R.C. (husband) and A.C. (wife), began divorce proceedings in Flagler County after having previously signed a valid prenuptial agreement. While the couple was married, the husband had received a sizable settlement in a personal injury lawsuit he had filed. The husband initially took those settlement funds and put them in an annuity. Then, later, he moved the money into a bank account owned by an LLC that he controlled. Then, still later, the husband moved the money again, this time from the LLC’s bank account to a bank account titled solely in the name of the wife.
Funds from this bank account belonging to the wife were used to buy the couple’s home in Palm Coast. Initially, the couple had the home titled solely in the wife’s name. Then, the wife executed a deed that transferred the property from her to the husband. The property was still in the husband’s name alone when the couple began divorce proceedings.
The trial court divided the couple’s property and, as part of that decision, ruled that the Palm Coast home was the wife’s separate property. The husband appealed, and he won. The Fifth Circuit concluded that not only was the property not the wife’s separate property, but also the trial court should have identified the home as the husband’s separate property. Even though the home was originally titled in the wife’s name and purchased with money from a bank account she solely owned, those facts alone did not necessarily make the property hers.
The appeals court agreed with the trial court that the Palm Coast home started out as the wife’s separate property. However, the prenuptial agreement gave each spouse the right to transfer separate property through gift, sale, or an estate planning document. When the wife executed the deed that transferred the property from her name alone to the husband’s name alone, she transferred the home via a gift. This took the home from being her separate property to being his separate property.
Of course, when it comes to a divorce judgment. many individual elements may be interdependent on each other. For example, in this case, the trial court declined to award alimony, based, at least in part, upon the way it divided the couple’s property. When a major change occurs due to a successful appeal, as occurred here, the law may sometimes allow the trial court to revisit that alimony ruling. In this circumstance, the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to reevaluate both its alimony and its child support decisions in light of this redistribution of the Palm Coast property.
Dealing with the complexities of property division in a divorce requires knowledge of the law, dedication, and a strong attention to detail. The skilled South Florida divorce attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have the experience you need when it comes to litigating your property division or other divorce issues. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Florida Supreme Court Decides Prenuptial Agreement Blocks Wife’s Claim to Increase in Value of Non-marital Assets, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 29, 2015
Invalidating a Prenuptial Agreement in Your Florida Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 21, 2015