Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Divorce can be a process that is filled with animosity. Adding adult children to the opposition no doubt adds to this animosity. The case Perez v. Perez, 238 So.3d 422 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018) presents a situation in which the former wife felt she had no choice but to sue her adult children over property that was at issue in her Florida divorce.

The parties were married for over 20 years and during that time accumulated multiple real properties. Prior to the parties’ separation, they executed deeds granting some of their properties to their adult children. According to the appellate court, “In her petition, [the former wife] joined their sons as third-party defendants, claiming that Husband and the sons had engaged in a fraudulent scheme to divest her of her rightful share of those properties. Wife's petition included requests to reform the deeds or to declare a constructive trust so that the properties they had deeded to their sons could be returned to the marital estate for equitable distribution.”

The former husband moved to dismiss the former wife’s claims regarding their sons and to dismiss them as defendants from the case. However at trial, the court heard testimony from the former husband that they deeded the properties to their sons to keep with a cultural tradition of taking care of children. The former wife testified she thought they were deeding the properties to the children to protect the property from creditors. One of the sons testified that if his parents asked him to deed the property back because they needed money, that he would.

The trial court then entered a final judgment of dissolution of marriage distributing between the spouses the properties owned by the parties’ sons. The former husband appealed, and this ruling was reversed. The appellate court determined the trial court erred because its ruling directly contradicted Florida law regarding the classification of non-marital assets. It was clear the spouses did not own these properties as of the date of filing their petition for divorce. Too, since the trial court earlier dismissed the sons from the suit upon the former husband’s motion, the final judgment was contradictory.

Furthermore, the appellate court held, “Even if the trial court simply considered the value of the property deeded to the sons when arriving at its equitable distribution, it erred because it made no finding of fraud, waste, or dissipation on the part of Husband. While the parties testified to having different reasons for why they deeded properties to their adult sons, it was undisputed that they both executed the deeds for the purpose of transferring those properties.”

Sometimes it is necessary to bring third parties into a divorce case as respondents, but this should be done with care and sensitivity to family dynamics. Consult with a Miami divorce lawyer to learn the best way to proceed if you are faced with a similar situation.