A pair of errors by a trial court allowed a husband to win his appeal before the Second District Court of Appeal recently. The lower court’s failure to include in its equitable distribution a loan taken out for the purpose of funding the couple’s child’s education was erroneous, as was basing the husband’s obligation on his gross, rather than net, income.
When going through a divorce, some people desire to resolve the case as quickly as possible. Sometimes, though, it may be necessary, in order to obtain a truly fair and just outcome, to ask the court to put off ruling in your case. One recent case from southwestern Florida highlights a set of circumstances in which a wife needed additional time to obtain evidence about her husband’s business, and the denial of her continuance request created an injustice for her that required the Second District Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling.
If you watch enough TV courtroom drama shows, you’ve likely seen it at some point. One of the lawyers will attempt to introduce some piece of evidence, and the other attorney will exclaim, “Objection! Hearsay!” While hearsay objections may be more commonly associated with criminal cases, they also take place in civil matters as well, including family law disputes. In a case recently before the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the hearsay rule and its exceptions were the key issue in deciding whether the wife had proper evidence to support her argument for imputing income to the husband. Since the appeals court decided that the wife’s evidence wasn’t admissible, that meant that the trial court order had to be reversed.
In an alimony case, the law gives trial judges a certain amount of discretion in how they structure an obligor spouse’s alimony payments. Even with this discretion, there are limits. For example, an alimony award should not automatically increase at some future date unless there are specific extenuating circumstances that warrant structuring the alimony obligation in that way. In the case of one Broward County couple, the husband’s alimony obligation, which automatically increased by 140% upon the couple’s child’s graduation from high school, was reversed by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because the trial court in the case listed no extenuating circumstances in its order.
When you think about alimony, you probably think about a court order that obliges one ex-spouse to pay the other ex-spouse a sum of money every month for a certain period of time (or permanently). The law also, however, allows the courts to hand out lump-sum awards of alimony. As with other alimony awards, the law has specific rules regarding when that type of alimony is appropriate. In one recent Second District Court of Appeal case, a lump-sum alimony award was overturned because the trial judge didn’t make the findings necessary to show that the award complied with the law.
Sometimes, the intervention of a divorce can create some serious wrinkles in the estate plans two spouses created while they were married. Other times, the couple’s estate plans can sometimes create wrinkles in an equitable distribution plan. In the case of one southwest Florida couple, that is exactly what happened. When they divorced, one of the pieces of property that the Collier County trial court distributed was a home in California. The Second District Court of Appeal threw out that distribution because, prior to the divorce, the couple had transferred the home into an irrevocable trust, so it was outside the reach of their divorce’s equitable distribution.
When you are going through a divorce, especially one without a minor child of the marriage, one of the most important issues to resolve may be equitable distribution. While equitable distribution may be fairly straightforward in cases in which every asset is clearly marital or non-marital, many divorces and equitable distributions are more complex. In one recent case decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, the court was called upon to address a case in which the couple’s home was the wife’s non-marital property, but the property had appreciated in part due to improvements made using marital funds. In this case, the trial court’s decision to credit 50% of the marital portion of the appreciation to the husband was improper when the court also gave the home 100% to the wife.
When you enter into divorce litigation, there are certain things you know at the outset. One of these is that the law presumes that your spouse and you should split all marital assets 50-50. This presumption is not ironclad, however, since fairness and the law dictate that a 50-50 split is not the proper outcome in all cases. In order to receive an uneven distribution in your case, the law requires your trial judge to make certain findings. In one recent case from the Tampa Bay area, the trial court’s failure to make the obligatory findings led the Second District Court of Appeal to throw out a distribution awarding the wife more than 50% of certain assets.
A South Florida doctor’s wife succeeded in obtaining a reversal recently of a trial court order that awarded her only durational rather than permanent alimony. Since the couple was married for 18 years, the wife should have received permanent alimony unless the trial judge made a finding that permanent alimony was inappropriate. The Fourth District Court of Appeal‘s decision in this couple’s case was also interesting in reaffirming that simply because the state legislature created durational alimony a few years ago did not mean that its creation wiped out the legal presumption in favor of permanent alimony in cases involving long-term marriages.
In Florida, the laws regarding divorce have followed a “no-fault” system since 1971. Today, there are only two bases for obtaining a divorce: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, or that one spouse has been declared mentally incompetent for at least three years. Before that, there were nine bases for obtaining a divorce under the old statute. One of those bases was adultery. Even though adultery is no longer a ground for divorce, a trial court in a divorce case may consider a spouse’s infidelity and, depending on the facts proven, may use that affair to alter the decisions it makes on alimony and equitable distribution. A recent Fifth District Court of Appeal case originating in Flagler County offers an example of how this works.