Florida Court Discusses Characterization of Property in Divorce Actions

Florida is an equitable distribution state. As such, if a couple decides to end their marriage via divorce, the court will distribute any marital property between them in a manner that it deems fair and just. Equitable distribution only applies to marital property, however; separate property remains the sole asset of the spouse that owns it. As such, a property characterization of property in a divorce action is essential for obtaining a just outcome. As illustrated in a recent Florida ruling delivered in a divorce case, if a court misclassifies property or issues a final judgment that does not comply with its oral statements at trial, such errors may qualify as grounds for pursuing an appeal. If you want to learn more about how a divorce may impact your property rights, it is wise to consult a Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that the parties, who had been married for twelve years, led largely separate lives, residing in different cities and managing their finances independently before the husband filed a petition for dissolution. At trial, the court ruled that most assets and liabilities were nonmarital, attributing them to the respective parties based on their individual acquisition or handling during the marriage.

Reportedly, the court emphasized the parties’ separate financial activities and concluded that an equal distribution would lead to unjust enrichment. The written final judgment conflicted with the court’s oral pronouncement, though, designating all assets and liabilities as nonmarital, contrary to the court’s acknowledgment of marital ownership of certain vehicles. The wife then appealed.

Characterization of Property in Divorce Actions

On appeal, the wife primarily contested the trial court’s findings regarding the classification and distribution of marital assets and liabilities. Upon review, the court affirmed the final judgment regarding the unequal distribution of marital assets and liabilities, finding no need for discussion. However, it reversed the judgment concerning the characterization of assets as nonmarital, as it conflicted with the trial court’s oral pronouncement. In doing so, the court emphasized that the trial court’s oral findings controlled over the written judgment. Further, the court highlighted the inconsistency between the written judgment’s classification of all assets as nonmarital and the trial court’s acknowledgment of marital ownership of certain assets.

Finally, the court noted that an unequal distribution required marital assets and liabilities, rendering the written judgment internally inconsistent. As such, the court remanded the case and directed the trial court to enter an amended final judgment consistent with its oral findings.

Speak to an Experienced Miami Attorney

The courts are expected to deliver fair judgments in dissolution proceedings, and if they do not, aggrieved parties may be able to pursue appeals. If you have questions about your rights with regard to property division in a divorce case, it is advisable to speak to an attorney. The experienced Miami divorce lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are proficient at helping people fight for just outcomes in dissolution proceedings, and if we represent you, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to set up a conference.

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