In a divorce case in which equitable distribution is an issue, there are many details that can substantially alter the result in your case. For example, the decision regarding which date to use for assessing the value of an asset can make thousands of dollars of difference, as was demonstrated in a recent First District Court of Appeal case. In that dispute, the First DCA ruled that a husband shouldn’t be punished in the equitable distribution process for depleting thousands of dollars of assets by paying for his living expenses and the expenses associated with the marital home.
The spouses in this case had been married for almost four decades when they decided to divorce. The husband had been the family’s primary bread-winner and had several bank accounts in his name. Two of those accounts were ones with BBVA Compass Bank and were considered by the trial court to be marital assets. At trial, the wife brought forward evidence that the two accounts had a combined total of $8,345 in them when the divorce petition was filed.
By the time the final hearing took place, though, the husband had proof that the accounts’ combined balance was only $2,432. The husband testified that this reduction was a result of his spending funds on expenses associated with the marital home, as well as his living expenses. In arguments over the equitable distribution of the marital assets, the husband contended that the court should use the balance as of the final hearing date, rather than the date of filing the petition. The trial court rejected this argument and used the $8,345 amount to fashion the couple’s equitable distribution.
On appeal, the husband again raised the issue of these BBVA Compass accounts, and the appeals court sided with him. In making determinations related to equitable distribution, trial courts generally have wide discretion. Judges may even use different dates for different assets. Florida law is clear, though, that, as a general rule, courts shouldn’t “include assets in an equitable distribution scheme that have been diminished or dissipated during the dissolution proceedings.”
An exception to this rule of dissipated or diminished assets exists when the dissipation or diminution occurs due to the misbehavior of one of the spouses. In order to trigger that exception, however, the trial judge has to make a specific finding that the spouse engaged in intentional misconduct.
In this case, there was no finding that the husband engaged in intentional misconduct in dissipating or diminishing the funds in the BBVA Compass accounts. In fact, of the wife’s general assertions of misconduct by the husband, none was tied directly to the BBVA Compass accounts. There was no proof on the record that disputed the husband’s testimony that he dissipated the funds in those accounts by paying only for the marital home and for his living expenses. Given this proof on the record, there was no basis for invoking the exception and therefore no reason not to use the $2,432 value of the accounts (as of the final hearing), instead of the $8,435 balance from the date of the petition, in deciding the equitable distribution of the couple’s marital assets.
In your equitable distribution case, every detail matters. The experienced and diligent South Florida equitable distribution attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help, possessing many years of experience helping clients pursue beneficial results in these and other family law issues. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Equitable Distribution in Florida and a Non-Marital Asset Maintained or Improved Using Marital Assets, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 7, 2016
Dealing with Items One Spouse Sells During a Florida Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 13, 2015