Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Parties involved in a dissolution of marriage case in Miami should be aware that a local administrative rule is in place which generally requires the parties to maintain a financial status quo with some exceptions. This essentially means a party cannot pull the financial rug from under the other party, so-to-speak, until there is a court order entered stating otherwise. Part of the financial status quo may include joint bank accounts. The case Gotro v. Gotro, 218 So.3d 494 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017) shows us how Florida family courts handle funds in a joint account that have been spent during a pending divorce case. 

Joint bank accounts held during marriage usually contain funds the parties regularly deposit from their paychecks to pay monthly expenses, or funds preserved for savings the parties have accrued over the years. At the time of filing a petition for divorce, the balance of joint accounts is essentially owned equally by the parties. But based on expenses incurred while a divorce petition is pending, it may not be reasonable to expect the parties to preserve the funds in these joint accounts. 

Such was the case in Gotro in which evidence entered at trial indicated the parties' joint account had a balance of over $8,000 at the time the petition for divorce was filed. However, evidence showed that by the time of trial, the account value had decreased to just over $2,000 and the husband testified he had used these funds to pay his living expenses and the home expenses while the case was pending. Despite this evidence, the trial court valued the account as of the date of filing the petition for divorce, resulting in the wife being awarded an equalizing payment from the husband. 

In reversing this ruling, the appellate court held that in order to assign funds to a party that are no longer present in an account, there must be a finding that the party committed misconduct or intentionally dissipated the account for his/her own purpose not related to a marital purpose. Since no such finding was made here, and in fact the evidence indicated the husband used these funds for normal expenses, the appellate court decided the trial court made an error in using the higher account value for purposes of valuation. 

A consultation with a Miami divorce attorney can help you determine what expenses may be justified during your pending case. Set a meeting today to go over your rights and responsibilities under the administrative order in place.