There are a wide variety of Floridians who have the potential to find themselves facing a high-asset divorce: professional athletes, actors or models, people who have inherited massive wealth, people who own businesses or people who have accumulated substantial wealth through passive investments. For any of these people, a divorce presents the possibility that a soon-to-be ex-spouse may attempt to obtain a share of assets that were not part of the marriage and should not be subject to equitable distribution. To prevent that, be sure you have the legal representation you need from an experienced South Florida family law attorney.
A husband from Naples found himself in that kind of situation in his divorce case recently. He married in 2006 and the wife filed for divorce in 2014. During those eight years, neither the husband nor the wife “was employed or earned a wage income.” The couple lived off loans from the husband’s father, along with passive income and funds from accounts that mostly were solely the husband’s.
During the divorce litigation, the wife asserted that eight of the husband’s investment and banking accounts, along with much of the husband’s stock, were actually marital assets. The trial judge ruled in favor of the wife on six of those eight banking/investment accounts, as well as the stock.
Additionally, the court ordered the husband to pay the wife an equalizing payment of more than $960,000. The husband was able to secure a different outcome on appeal.
How the courts will decide if an asset is marital or non-marital
If your spouse is seeking to win an argument that an asset was a marital one subject to equitable distribution, there are several forms of evidence that can be keys to her success. For example, proof that an asset was opened during the marriage, that the asset had the names of both spouses placed upon it or that the asset’s funds were commingled with marital money could strengthen her case.
As a spouse seeking a ruling that the asset(s) were non-marital, proof that none of those things were true can significantly bolster your case.
The evidence this Naples husband provided at trial showed that he opened two of the six accounts before the couple married and that the accounts were titled in his name only. As the wife had no evidence that those accounts’ funds had ever been commingled with marital funds, there was no permissible basis for finding them to be marital assets.
On an additional three accounts, although they were opened during the marriage, they were also non-marital. The evidence produced at trial showed that the husband funded these accounts using his separate, non-marital assets and that marital assets were never commingled into those accounts. The husband even brought in an accounting expert who testified that no deposits of marital funds were ever made into those three accounts.
The trial judge also was incorrect in determining that the husband’s stock was marital. When it comes to stocks that you acquired before your marriage, there are a few ways that your spouse can prove they were marital assets. Proof “of enhancement or commingling or that they were given to the wife as a gift” are all ways that non-marital stock can convert into a marital asset. However, if you purchased your stock before the marriage and there’s no evidence of “enhancement, commingling, or a gift to the wife,” then the law says that that stock is non-marital.
As you can see from this Naples divorce, defending your non-marital assets against a divorcing spouse’s claims of entitlement to equitable distribution is a fact-intensive process, sometimes requires complex and detailed proof to demonstrate clearly that your spouse has no valid legal claim to a portion of those assets. To make sure you get a divorce outcome that accurately and fairly represents what is yours and what is your spouse’s, make sure you have the effective legal representation you need. Rely on the experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman to provide you with the helpful advice and zealous advocacy you deserve to protect your assets.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.