Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce
Commingling refers to what happens when non-marital funds are mixed with marital funds. Commingled money, in most cases, makes the non-marital funds marital since it is presumed the spouse intended to gift the money to the other party. As we see in the case Knecht v. Palmer, 5D17-533 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018), however, a Florida court's powers of equity can overcome this gift presumption.
The parties were in a three-year marriage. The former wife entered the marriage with substantial assets while the former husband entered with substantial debt. The evidence in the divorce case showed that a house was purchased during the marriage - the down payment came from Wife's pre-marital money and substantial renovations on the home were made using wife's pre-marital funds. The husband claimed he was entitled to half of the appreciation in value of the home. He also claimed the parties had an agreement for the wife to pay the husband 20 percent of a monthly amount the wife was receiving from a church for payment for artwork previously owned by the wife's first husband. The husband in this case claimed that although the negotiations occurred prior to marriage, he assisted in the negotiation and was promised the percentage by the wife.
The trial court denied the husband's request for equity in the home, ordering the home was pre-marital. However, the appellate court held the funds used for the renovation were marital because they were commingled in a joint account. While the appellate court disagreed with the trial court that the funds were marital in nature, both courts reached the same conclusion, but in a different way - the trial court denied the husband's request for equity in the home based on its ruling that the home was entirely funded by non-marital money, but the appellate court denied the request based on principles of equity. In this case, the appellate court reasoned and unequal distribution of marital assets was just. As to the husband's claim regarding the art work, the appellate court denied his appeal, holding there was no evidence that this agreement existed since the husband could not produce a contract memorializing these terms.
Equitable distribution can get complicated if you are unaware of the various rules and their sub-parts. A consultation with a Miami divorce attorney can help you understand the specifics of your case and give you a road map to follow as you navigate the divorce process. Schedule a consultation today to go over your options.