Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

A Florida divorce can be expensive when you consider attorneys' fees and fees spent on experts such as forensic accountants, vocational evaluators, etc. For this reason, parties sometimes agree to sell marital assets and split the proceeds even before the divorce is finalized so that each can free up cash to pay for the divorce proceedings. The parties in the case Rosaler v. Rosaler, 219 So.3d 840 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017) agreed to do just that with a pricey diamond, but how the court classified the proceeds of the sale at the end of the case brought on disagreement. 

The parties owned a yellow diamond valued at over $100,000. They agreed to sell the diamond and to permit the wife to take $60,000 of the proceeds to pay her temporary attorneys' fees and costs. The trial court indicated it would determine at trial whether this payment to the wife would be credited as equitable distribution or as a temporary attorneys' fee payment alone. The parties did subsequently sell the diamond and the wife received the $60,000. 

After a trial, in its final judgment, the court found that the diamond was sold for $142,000. Of that amount, the court acknowledged the wife received $60,000 to pay her accountant and her lawyer, and the parties split the remainder of the funds. For purposes of equitable distribution, the court then attributed $101,000 to the wife for the diamond. The wife appealed, arguing it was error for the trial court to do so. 

The appellate court found that by attributing the $101,000 to the wife without any findings as to her need for temporary attorneys' fees, the court implicitly found that she had no need for temporary fees. The appellate court reversed with an instruction to the trial court to make findings justifying the assignment of these funds as temporary fees versus equitable distribution. 

Before agreeing to the sale of any assets pending your divorce, it is important to have an agreement in place as to the ultimate classification of the proceeds of that sale. A consultation with a Miami divorce lawyer may help you decide what classification is in your best interest.