Florida Court Discusses Intentional Diversion of Marital Funds in Divorce Actions

In many divorce actions, a couple will disagree as to how marital property should be divided. In some instances, a party will go so far as to intentionally divert funds to prevent their spouse from accessing them. The courts typically do not look kindly on such behavior, as demonstrated in a recent Florida divorce action in which the court found that the wife’s act of depositing marital funds in an irrevocable trust constituted misconduct. If you have concerns about how a divorce could impact your finances, it is in your best interest to meet with a Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the husband and the wife were in the process of divorcing. After the petition for dissolution was filed, the wife transferred approximately millions of dollars in marital funds into an irrevocable trust. She allegedly did so to protect the husband from wasting the assets after the divorce, given his history of being reckless with marital funds and subject to extortion schemes. Allegedly, in the trial court’s final judgment of divorce, it allocated the money in the trust to the wife for purposes of equitable distribution, which increased the value of the marital estate and ultimately prompted the court to require the wife to pay the husband an equalizer payment of approximately $2 million. The wife appealed, challenging the trial court’s ruling.

Intentional Diversion of Marital Funds

On appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed. Specifically, the court found that contrary to her assertions, the wife’s actions solely benefitted her and were unrelated to the marriage and, therefore, constituted misconduct and intentional diversion of marital funds.

The court explained that, in a divorce action, the trial court must set aside each party’s nonmarital liabilities and assets and then decide how to divide marital assets between them. The courts begin with the understanding that the division should be equal, but that does not mean it must be; if the court makes an unequal distribution, its decision must be justified based on nine statutory factors.

In the subject case, the court found that the trial court correctly understood and applied the applicable law, as demonstrated by the fact that its order identified and applied the factors in question based on the evidence presented by the case. Specifically, it found that the wife’s transfer of assets into a trust constituted intentional dissipation of marital funds, which was one of the factors. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned Miami Attorney

While divorcing couples often argue over finances, it is imprudent for them to intentionally prevent each other from accessing marital funds. If you or your spouse in spouse intend to seek a divorce, it is advisable to speak to an attorney regarding your rights and obligations. The seasoned Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can advise you of your options for protecting your interests and help you seek the most favorable outcome possible under the facts of your case. We have an office in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in divorce cases in Miami. You can contact us through our form online or at 800-596-0579 to set up a conference.