Former Spouse Not Entitled To Receive Financial Benefits After Divorce

Many times when a client meets with their family law attorney in Fort Lauderdale, they question whether an asset is marital or non-marital. They also question their rights to the future income of marital and non-marital assets. In the case of Morenberg v. Morenberg, the Fourth District Court of Appeal recently addressed the wife’s entitlement to equitable distribution of royalties from labor which took place after she filed her Florida marital and family law case.

On August 20, 2008, the wife filed for divorce after being married for 46 years to the husband, an English professor. After the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage, the husband began working on the fourth edition of one of his books. In the final judgment of dissolution of marriage, the trial court ordered that the parties were to equally divide the royalties from two books that he wrote while he was an English professor, one of which he wrote after the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage.

At the trial, the husband testified that he began working on the second book in December 2008 or January 2009. He also testified that he finished the book one day before trial. On the otherhand, the wife testified that there was no post-dissolution of marriage labor related to the husband’s second book. She believed that all of the husband’s labor occurred prior to trial and the final judgment of dissolution of marriage.

The Husband appealed the final judgment of dissolution of marriage which was entered by the trial court. His main argument on appeal was that the trial court erred in requiring him to share the post-dissolution royalties with the wife since he earned after she filed for divorce.

In reversing the decision of the trial court, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that any future royalties from the husband’s book which were started, completed and submitted after the petition for dissolution of marriage are post-dissolution income and should be excluded from income that must be split with the wife.

During a trial, your Broward divorce attorney will ask the court to achieve an equitable distribution by dividing all assets acquired during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them. A former spouse is not entitled to receive any financial benefits which accrue after the divorce. Based upon the clear language of Florida Statute 61.075, the date of filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage is generally the latest date for identifying marital assets.

Here, the royalties from the the book written during the marriage would be considered a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. New editions of the books which are written by the husband after the date of filing or post-dissolution are not marital assets subject to equitable distribution.