Florida Court Explains When Separate Property Become Marital Property

Under Florida law, while marital property is subject to equitable distribution in a divorce action, separate property is not; instead, it remains the property of the spouse to whom it belongs. Challenges in determining the nature of property can arise, however, when a party mingles separate and marital assets, as illustrated in a recent Florida divorce action in which the parties disagreed over whether a boat was a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. If you wish to seek a divorce, it is prudent to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer to determine how the end of your marriage may impact your property rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife were married for eighteen years. After the court issued a final judgment of dissolution, the wife filed an appeal, arguing in part that the trial court erred in determining that a boat was the husband’s separate property for the purposes of equitable distribution.

Separate Versus Marital Property

On appeal, the court adopted the wife’s reasoning and reversed the trial court ruling. The court noted that the trial court determined that the boat in question was the husband’s separate property because the husband paid for it with funds he received from his father’s trust. The wife argued, however, that the husband could not prove that the boat was a separate asset because it was bought with money that was commingled with marital funds in the couple’s joint bank account.

The court explained that separate liabilities and assets include property either party obtains separately either by a gift, bequest, devise, or descent from someone other than their spouse. It also includes assets obtained in exchange for such property. The court elaborated, though, that separate assets may lose their separate character and become marital assets where they have been comingled with marital assets. This is especially true in cases involving commingled separate and marital money.

In the subject case, the court found that the evidence did not demonstrate that the husband’s father directly purchased him the boat as a gift. Instead, the husband testified that he received three separate withdrawals from his father’s trust, which he then deposited in a joint bank account with the wife that they used to pay marital bills. As such, the court found that the separate funds changed into marital funds, and therefore, the boat was a marital asset subject to equitable distribution.

Confer with a Skilled Miami Attorney

People have the right to retain their separate property in divorce actions, but if they commute the character or a separate asset it may be subject to equitable distribution. If you want to end your marriage, it is prudent to confer with an attorney regarding your options. The skilled Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can inform you of what to expect and help you protect your interests as they guide you through the process of obtaining a divorce. Our office is in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in divorce cases in Miami. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.