Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Divorce

Can a court award exclusive use and possession of the marital home to one spouse and require both spouses to pay for half of the expenses for maintaining the home? Such was the issue brought on appeal by a former wife in the case Morgan v. Morgan, 213 So.3d 378 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017). 

The parties in this case did not have a huge disparity in income - the wife's gross income was $1,219 per month and the husband's was $3,158. At trial, the wife requested full ownership of the marital home through equitable distribution, or in the alternative, alimony. The husband countered with asking for a sale of the marital residence with the proceeds to be split between the parties 50/50. 

At trial, the court stated in its order that it considered the factors listed in the Florida Statutes regarding equitable distribution. In accordance with those factors, the court awarded the wife exclusive use and possession of the marital home until her death or remarriage, whereupon the house would be sold and the parties would split the proceeds 50/50. On appeal, the wife argued the court erred in equitably distributing the marital assets because it made no specific findings required by the statutes, and that further, the court should have awarded her alimony and required the husband to pay 50 percent of the home expenses since he was 50 percent owner of the home. 

The appellate court sided with the trial court and the husband on these issues, finding the court's award of the marital home to be equitable. As to alimony, the appellate court found the wife waived her claim for alimony by specifically requesting in her pleadings the marital residence in lieu of alimony. Further, the appellate court found no error in the trial court's decision to make the wife fully responsible for expenses associated with the marital home while she was living in it since the husband was no longer living in the marital home and had his own expenses to pay, plus the wife had been maintaining the expenses in the home on her own for nine years prior to the dissolution when the husband left the home. 

As you can see, it is important that your petition carefully requests the relief you want at trial since you will be held to what you state you want. Having a Miami divorce attorney draft your petition for you may help you ensure that you strategically and correctly ask for the relief you want.