Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Sometimes parties hide assets in a Florida divorce. This results in a spouse not receiving his or her fair share of the marital estate. In the case Rowe-Lewis v. Lewis, 4D18-1982 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019), the former wife appealed an order denying her motion to set aside the final judgment based on the fraud of the former husband in not disclosing all of his assets. The former wife also appealed the court’s denial of her alimony claim.

The final judgment allowed each party to keep respective assets and debts, but was silent as to distribution of a towing company owned by the former husband. The former wife alleged “that former husband's financial affidavit and corresponding testimony were fraudulent. [Former wife] identified specific, undisclosed assets and income sources, including payments deposited into the towing company's primary business checking account, which she claimed former husband used for personal expenses. [Former wife] also presented records as proof of these payments. She alleged that if former husband had reported this financial information accurately, then the court could have found that: he had the ability to pay retroactive and ongoing spousal support; he had the ability to pay more child support; and that his business was an asset of the marriage which should have been equitably distributed.”

The trial court listed all factors in Florida Statute 61.08 concerning alimony, and only made findings as to one factor - “any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties”. Under that factor, the trial court determined alimony should not be awarded to the former wife because of her steady employment history. The former wife’s motion to set aside the final judgment based on fraud was also denied without a hearing.

The appellate court reversed the final judgment on the grounds that an evidentiary hearing should have been held regarding the allegations of fraud made by the former wife. It also determined alimony was not properly considered where the court only made findings as to one of many factors listed in the Florida statute regarding alimony. The appellate court noted that although not all factors may be applicable, those that are must be explored and it should be stated in the judgment which ones are not being considered and why.

Alimony and equitable distribution are two major components of many Florida divorce cases. To be sure you are receiving the fair end of both, schedule a consultation with a Miami divorce attorney and decide the best way for you to move forward.