Florida Court Discusses Determining the Effective Date for the Termination of Marriage

There is typically some delay between the time a couple decides to end their marriage and the date ultimately determined to be the effective date of the end of the marriage. While the difference may seem insignificant, it is essential for determining issues like property division and spousal support. Recently, a Florida court discussed the distinction between the two dates in a case in which the wife argued that the court relied on the wrong date when determining equitable distribution.  If you are contemplating seeking a divorce, it is advisable to confer with a seasoned Miami divorce lawyer to assess your rights.

The Divorce Action

It is reported that the couple married in 1996 and separated in 2008. They did not enter into a formal separation agreement, but both began relationships with other people. In 2018, the husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The wife filed a counter-petition in which she sought alimony. The court held a trial on the issue of alimony and equitable distribution, during which it determined the effective date of the end of the marriage to be 2008. As such, it denied the wife’s request for alimony. The wife filed a motion for rehearing, arguing that the court erred in determining the effective termination date to be 2008 rather than 2018.

Determining the Effective Date for the Termination of Marriage

The appellate court agreed with the wife’s argument that the trial court improperly calculated the effective date for the termination of the marriage. It found the error to be harmless, however and therefore affirmed the trial court’s rulings with regard to property division and alimony.

The appellate court explained that Florida Statute section 61.075 provides that the cut-off date the courts should employ when determining whether to classify assets as nonmarital or marital is the date a petition for dissolution is filed, or the parties enter into a formal separation agreement. It noted, though, that section 61.075 also granted the courts discretion to determine a date for assessing the value of assets that is equitable and just under the circumstances.

In the subject case, the appellate court ultimately found that the trial court’s failure to identify the length of the marriage based on when the husband filed the dissolution proceeding rather than when the couple separated constituted an error. The appellate court ruled, though, that although the marriage was considered long-term in the eyes of the law, the evidence produced did not support a finding that the wife had a need for alimony or that the husband had the ability to pay. Further, the application of the earlier termination date resulted in the wife leaving the marriage with a significantly higher net worth than the husband. Thus, the appellate court found the trial court’s error to be harmless.

Speak to Skillful Miami Attorney

The date a marriage effectively ends is important for calculating property rights, and if the court applies the wrong date, it may constitute a reversible error. If you or your spouse wish to end your marriage, you should speak to an attorney about your options. The skillful Miami divorce attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., can assess the facts of your case and offer you advice regarding how a divorce action may impact you financially.  We have an office in Aventura, and we regularly help people with family law issues in Miami. You can contact us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.