Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Alimony

In what sounds like a law school essay exam fact pattern or even a bar exam essay question, the recently published case Greenshields v. Greenshields, 5D18-400 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018) presents an interesting and somewhat complex history between divorced parties with a dispute revolving around a loan and an alimony obligation.

The parties were divorced in 2011. After the divorce, the former wife bought a house in Merritt Island, Florida and the former husband relocated to Orlando. At some point, the former wife agreed to relocate to Orlando so that the parties’ children could be closer to the former husband. In order to effectuate the move, the former husband loaned the former wife over $152,000 to purchase a house in Orlando.

As part of the loan agreement, the former wife granted a power of attorney to the former husband which gave the former husband the following powers: “to direct or cause to direct on a first priority basis the proceeds of the sale of the property at 912 Harbor Pines in full repayment of all and any advances including interest, insurance, utilities or other charges incurred either with the . . . loan for the purchase of 1333 Falling Star Orlando or the existing property at 912 Harbor Pines to ensure that Mark Greenshields is made completely whole and to act to direct any remaining funds after full repayment to Mark Greenshields to the bank account of my choice.” The power of attorney also authorized the former husband to recoup advances paid to the former wife, including the loan amount.

Although the former wife did purchase a home in Orlando, she ended up moving back to Merritt Island. During this time, the former husband racked up an alimony arrearage. So when the Orlando home was sold, the former wife paid the former husband over $132,000 but kept $20,000 in her attorneys’ trust account for the alimony arrearage due to her. The parties then entered an agreement which resolved the husband’s alimony arrearage and released the $20,000 to the former wife. This agreement implicitly resolved the loan balance and the arrears in one.

Years later, the when the former wife was closing on the sale of her Merritt Island home, the former husband filed an emergency motion stating the former wife did not intend to compensate him from the sale of the property per the power of attorney. He also filed a notice of lis pendens. After a hearing, the trial court dissolved the lis pendens and decided the former husband was not entitled to injunctive relief, but ordered the former wife to hold over $36,000 in escrow pending ultimate resolution of the former husband’s claims.

On appeal, the appellate court reversed this requirement, holding “ Former Husband's characterization of the $20,000 sought as principal does not make it so. It is undisputed that three years after agreeing to repay his court-ordered alimony arrearages from the sale proceeds of the Orlando house, Former Husband was attempting to not only obtain repayment of the alimony but also interest on that payment. Thus, the majority of the monies the trial court required to be escrowed pertained to that $20,000 alimony payment which was entirely unrelated to the power of attorney.” The appellate court further held, “The parties presented the trial court these issues in the form of an emergency motion to dissolve a lis pendens and subsequent rehearing. The court did a commendable job under the circumstances, and its decision to dissolve the lis pendens was correct. However, the requirement that Former Wife hold monies in escrow pending the outcome of the litigation effectively enjoined her use of the monies and was improper.”

This case is not over since the lower court now needs to resolve the former husband’s claims regarding breach of contract and unjust enrichment, so it will be interesting to see how the case plays out ultimately. Florida family law cases can be complex which is why it is important that you have an experienced attorney by your side, especially when entering a contract. Schedule a consultation with one today to go over your rights and remedies in your case.