A recent decision entered by the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach offers a stern warning to spouses who use misconduct in order to gain access to marital funds to invest. The case makes clear that one of the potential risks of engaging in misconduct in order to make an investment may be shouldering the full amount of the debt should you and your spouse divorce. In the Fifth Circuit case, a director of, and investor in, a Florida bank that failed had a $100,000 loan count as his separate, non-marital debt because he forged his wife’s signature on the loan documents.
Barry Mills was on the Board of Directors and a major investor in Florida State Bank, a startup bank established in 2007. Each of the bank’s directors was required to make an investment, and Mills’ portion was more than a quarter-million dollars. Mills’ wife, Brenda Mills, knew that her husband was a director of, and investor in, the bank, but she did not know the extent of the investment. Since the husband did not have sufficient cash available to make the full required investment, he acquired an additional $100,000 by taking out a second mortgage on the marital home. Fearing that the wife would not approve of the investment and the second mortgage, the husband did not ask her to sign the loan documents and instead forged her signature on the paperwork.