Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

In a case which involved judgments from another state, common law marriage and fraudulent money transfers to a new spouse, Florida divorce law application is on display. In the case Kvinta v. Kvinta, 5D17-1348 (Fla. 5th DCA June 28, 2019), the former husband and his current wife were sued by the former wife.

The former spouses were married in Ohio and then divorced. After the divorce, they began living together in Kansas which established their common law marriage. After litigation in Ohio that led to the Ohio court awarding over $300,000 to the former wife after finding the former husband fraudulently transferred marital funds to his current wife to divest the former wife of those funds, the former wife filed a case in Florida to determine and distribute marital assets and for alimony.

Ultimately, both of the former spouses appealed the Florida final judgment. The appellate court determined, among other issues, that the trial court erroneously failed to consider the tax consequences of an award of assets, improperly ordered the former husband to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the former wife and erroneously gave the former husband a credit for the over $300,000 the Ohio court previously found belonged to the former wife.

As to the tax consequences, the appellate court held, “The purpose of considering tax consequences is to ensure that one party is not ‘charged with the full value of an asset that is burdened with an inevitable payment of taxes.’” Turning to the life insurance obligation, the appellate court held that this was error, mainly because the trial court found that alimony was not warranted. The court stated, '“First, the trial court never awarded alimony, and the purpose of such a policy is expressly to protect an award of alimony. [. . . ] Second, the trial court never made the required findings on special circumstances: that without the policy Former Wife would ‘be left in dire economic straits,’ that she would be required ‘to depend upon welfare or the generosity of others,’ or that she was disabled or elderly. [. . .] Instead, the trial court found that Former Wife had ‘a need for a life insurance policy in the amount of $100,000.00’ to make up for the termination of pension payments upon Former Husband's death. The trial court also noted that the award of life insurance was related to its decision not to grant alimony. Third, the trial court failed to make findings on cost or the amount of insurance ordered. This was reversible error, and we set aside that award. [. . .] On remand, the trial court shall refrain from ordering a life insurance policy unless, in light of the modified equitable distribution ordered by this court, it awards spousal support to Former Wife and makes the special findings that justify providing such financial protection, together with findings regarding the availability, cost, and Former Husband's ability to pay for an award of life insurance.”

As to the credit given to the former husband the appellate court held: “In previous litigation between these same parties, the Ohio trial court found that there had been a Charles Schwab account since 1981 containing funds that were completely marital assets. However, the Ohio court found that Former Husband had fraudulently and unilaterally transferred those marital funds to a new Charles Schwab account (#2582) solely in the name of Current Wife. To remedy that fraud, the Ohio court exercised its in rem jurisdiction and awarded one-half of the value of that account to Former Wife, and that award was affirmed on appeal in Ohio. Former Husband incorrectly focused on whether that specific account existed in 1995, rather than considering whether the marital funds deposited with Charles Schwab that were fraudulently transferred existed in 1995. Because those funds were dealt with only in the Ohio action, the Florida trial court erroneously gave Former Husband the credit. Moreover, by giving Former Husband a credit in the Florida litigation for what the Ohio court had previously ordered him to pay Former Wife from that account, the Florida trial court improperly ignored the Ohio court's final judgment, which resulted in awarding one hundred percent of that particular Charles Schwab account to Former Husband. We reverse that award as it is not supported by competent, substantial evidence, and the conclusion that it was not marital property is both factually and legally incorrect.“

If you are facing a Florida divorce, contact a Miami divorce attorney to go over your case. During a consultation, a specific plan for your case can be created to put you on the path toward moving forward the best way possible.