Court Discusses Characterizing Property in Florida Divorces

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that any property deemed a marital asset will be divided equitably among the parties in a divorce action, while any separate property will remain separate. As such, it is critical that the courts properly characterize all property the parties own to ensure a fair distribution. If a court errs when determining the nature of an asset, the parties may be able to appeal the final judgment of dissolution, as illustrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is wise to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband filed a divorce petition in 2015. During the divorce trial, the main points of contention were the classification of financial accounts owned by the wife and real properties owned by the husband. The trial court issued a final judgment of dissolution of marriage in 2016, ruling that certain financial accounts were partially marital assets and that the classification of the properties was marital. The court did not provide a rationale for its decision.

Allegedly, in March 2022, a hearing was held to determine the non-marital portion of the wife’s financial accounts. The wife stipulated that four accounts were entirely marital, but the parties disagreed on the classification of the fifth account, which was an IRA. After the hearing, the trial court determined that the entire IRA was the wife’s nonmarital asset based on her testimony, the testimony of a certified public accountant, and submitted financial records. The husband appealed.

Characterizing Property in Florida Divorces

On appeal, the court found that the trial court had distributed marital and nonmarital assets by referring to the wife’s equitable distribution schedule without providing any findings or explanations for the classification of the properties.

Regarding the financial accounts, the trial court stated in the 2016 final judgment that it did not have enough evidence to determine the marital and nonmarital portions of the accounts and allowed the wife to unilaterally present additional evidence if the parties did not agree. The court found that this constituted an abuse of discretion, as it violated the husband’s right to due process.

In sum, the court determined that the trial court erred in classifying the IRA and the real properties as marital or nonmarital without providing sufficient findings. As such, the court reversed those determinations and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Talk to a Capable Miami Attorney Today

Property division is often a contentious issue in Florida divorce actions, and it is crucial that all assets are accurately characterized. If you want to file for divorce or were served with divorce papers, it is wise to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. The capable Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. take pride in helping people navigate the challenges of divorce, and if we represent you, we will fight to help you seek a just outcome. We have an office in Aventura, and we frequently assist people in divorce actions in Miami. You can contact us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.