Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

What remedies are available if an ex-spouse refuses to pay a Florida equitable distribution claim? These remedies are different from those available for failure to pay financial support such as alimony or child support. This issue was raised in the case Stufft v. Stufft, 238 So.3d 419 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018).

In this case, the former husband appealed a trial court order on two grounds: (1) he contended the trial court erred in characterizing equitable distribution payments as support payments enforceable by contempt and (2) he argued the trial court erred in failing to apportion IRS debt between the parties. The former husband sold a business formed during the marriage. As part of the sale, he was to receive certain future payments representing his ownership stake in the business. The trial court ordered that the former husband pay the former wife her one-half share of these payments within a certain time after receipt. These payments were characterized in the court’s order as support payments enforceable by contempt.

The parties testified that they did not file taxes for an extended period of time during their marriage. Thus they owed back taxes to the IRS. Rather than apportioning this debt between the parties, the court left it up to the IRS to decide which spouse was responsible for which portion of the debt. The trial court specifically found the IRS debt to be marital and rejected the former wife’s testimony that she was unaware of the duty to file or pay taxes.

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling as to the equitable distribution payments, holding it was error to characterize these as support payments. The former wife’s remedy is that of a creditor and not contempt. As to the IRS debt, where there was no evidence to suggest otherwise, the presumption was that each party was responsible for half and the trial court erred in not distributing this debt. Therefore the case was remanded with instructions to remove from the final judgment the language misidentifying the equitable distribution payments and to apportion the IRS debt between the parties.

A Miami divorce lawyer can help you determine what your rights and remedies are in your case. Therefore it is important that you schedule a consultation with one to go over the details of your case and form a plan that will optimize your case outcome.