Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Divorce can be expensive when you consider changed living arrangements and attorneys' fees. There may now be two attorneys to pay and two separate households to support. For that reason, while the parties may have savings or other bank accounts at the time of filing for divorce, those accounts may be depleted by the time a case goes to trial. According to the appellate case Bellows v. Bellows, 4D16-3745 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), the court is required to treat the depletion of those assets a certain way. 

In this case, the wife was credited with thousands of dollars that were in a marital account. The court used the date of separation/filing as the valuation date for the account rather than the date of trial. At the time of trial, the account had been depleted. The wife appealed, arguing that she should not be credited with money that no longer existed. 

The appellate court agreed, holding that absent a finding of misconduct on the part of the spouse who spent the money, a party cannot be credited with funds that are no longer present in an account. If those funds were spent on necessities such as living expenses and attorneys' fees during the course of the case, a spouse cannot be "punished" by having those expenses credited to him/her in the equitable distribution scheme. 

So what would constitute misconduct? Perhaps a showing that a spouse gambled the money away or spent it on some other improper purpose. A consultation with a Miami divorce lawyer may help you determine how money in joint accounts can and should be handled while your Florida divorce case is pending.