Latest Supreme Court Opinion Affecting Florida Equitable Distribution

Divorce cases are often tied to issues involving the distribution of marital assets. In Florida, only marital assets can be subjected to equitable distribution which typically apportions the spousal properties in equal shares.

Marital VS Non-Marital Assets

Classifying assets into marital and non-marital is a crucial step in equitable distribution because only marital properties may be included in the pool of assets to be divided between the divorcing spouses.

Pre-marital properties or assets that each spouse owned before the celebration of the marriage are generally non-marital, hence not distributable during divorce. But this rule is about to change with the recent decision of the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Hooker v. Hooker.

Details of the Case

Husband and wife were married in 1987 and divorced in 2010. Their prenuptial agreements stated that each would retain their pre-marital assets in the event of a divorce. During the divorce proceedings, husband and wife could not agree on the nature of two specific properties. The wife maintained that the husband intended to donate the property which became their residence to her. However, title to the properties was not registered in the wife’s name.

Spouse’s Intention to Donate

The trial court ruled in favor of the wife, saying that the husband’s behavior during the marriage indicated an intent to make and interspousal gift of his pre-marital assets to his wife. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and was of the same opinion that the pre-marital properties should be treated as marital properties that were subject of distribution based on the intent of one spouse to gift the property to the other spouse.

Before this much-talked about decision, the long-standing and prevailing rule in Florida is that each party’s pre-marital property remains theirs unless title has been transferred in the meantime. While the opinion is not yet final as of this writing, family law practitioners are saying that this departure from previous rulings that treated pre-marital assets as separate or non-marital properties, will significantly impact divorce settlements and court decisions.

Equitable distribution is a complex process where divorcing couples are often deadlocked during litigation. If you are contemplating a divorce or dissolution of your marriage, it’s absolutely important to discuss this legal angle thoroughly with an experienced family law attorney. Your lawyer can examine your situation closely and provide legal advice to help you make informed decisions during negotiations for settlement agreements and, if necessary, represent you in court.

In Florida, the Anton Legal Group has been serving Tampa for 30 years, with qualified family law attorneys prepared to help families work through their marital and post marital issues, and can aggressively litigate cases if necessary. Call us today at (813) 443-5249 to schedule your initial consultation.