Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A.
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Palm Beach Florida Divorce & Family Law Blog

Division of Property and Assets in West Palm Beach, Florida

A Division of Property and Assets case was recently decided by the Florida court of Appeal. In a case captioned Ramos v. Ramos, the Court ruled that, under Florida law, the appreciation in the value of a nonmarital asset that results from the expenditure of marital funds or from marital labor is a marital asset. For example, if a $500,000 home is owned by one of the parties prior to the marriage and the value of that home is increased to $1,000,000 as a result of marital efforts, the increase in the value of the home is considered to be a marital asset subject to division by the Court.

In the Ramos case, the parties married in 2000, and the Husband filed for divorce in 2014. The Husband maintained that his vending machine business was a nonmarital asset because the business was started ten years prior to the date of the marriage. The Husband contended that because the business was a nonmarital asset, it was not subject to equitable distribution by the Court. The Wife contended that the business was a marital asset. The evidence at trial showed that the Husband's business lost value during the course of the marriage. The trial court agreed with the Wife and found that the business was a marital asset. The Husband appealed the trial court's ruling. The Florida Court of Appeal agreed with the Husband and reversed the trial court.

Alimony in Palm Beach Gardens Florida

In a recent decided alimony case captioned Shimer v. Corey, the Florida Court of Appeal held that the lower court made a mistake when it required the Husband to purchase a life insurance policy as part of the alimony award in this case. The Florida statutes permit a court to require a party to maintain a life insurance policy to secure alimony payments. In making a decision as to whether a payor should be required to purchase insurance to secure an alimony award the trial court should consider the following factors. 

Unmarried Fathers and Unmarried Mothers and Contempt of Court in Florida

This paternity case involved an unmarried mother and an unmarried father in Hillsborough County, Florida. This litigation started when the child was 16 months old. The parties were initially able to settle matters involving their personal property. However, disputes about the child continued for many years. After an August 2008 hearing, the trial court entered a temporary order awarding majority time-sharing to the father. The remaining issues were referred to a general magistrate. The general magistrate did not conduct a hearing on these issues for two years. One of the parents objected, and the reviewing court did not issue an order for three more years. The mother objected to this ruling and the court did not rule on the mother's objections for another two years.

The father was then found in contempt of court for violating the temporary timesharing order. In the contempt order, the father lost his majority timesharing with the child. The court granted a custody modification and awarded the mother equal timesharing. The father was also admonished not to exercise sole parental responsibility and was ordered not to engage in conduct that hindered effective co-parenting.

Paternity Tests in Florida

In a recent paternity case captioned L.G. v. Department of Children and Families, the legal father of a child appealed an order denying his Petition to Disestablish Paternity of a child. The legal father was not married to the child's mother. However, the legal father acknowledged his paternity on the child's birth certificate. The legal father filed a Petition to Disestablish Paternity based on newly discovered evidence. The newly discovered evidence was that a recent DNA test showed that he was not the actual father of the child. The trial judge denied the father's Petition based upon the fact that another father was unwilling to step in and serve as the father of this child.

Modification of Alimony in Boynton Beach, Florida

A modification of alimony is permitted by the Florida Statutes. In a recently decided case captioned Kallett v. Kastriner, the Florida Court of Appeal stated that the right to apply for a modification of alimony may only be waived in an agreement if the language in the contract contains a waiver that is clear and unambiguous, or if the agreement is written in a manner that can lead to no other conclusion but that the parties intended there to be a waiver of this right.

In this case, the Husband and Wife were divorced in 2006. The lower court ordered the Husband to pay permanent alimony to his wife. In 2008, the husband and wife entered into an agreement in which they agreed to reduce the Husband's alimony by $500.00 per month due to the diminution of his income. The lower court approved this agreement. In 2014, the Husband sought another reduction in his alimony. The Wife opposed this reduction unless the Husband was involuntarily unemployed. The Wife argued that the 2008 agreement contained a provision that said that the Husband could only reduce his alimony obligation if he was involuntarily unemployed. The Wife argued that since the Husband was not involuntarily unemployed, he was not entitled to seek a modification. The trial court agreed with the Wife's construction of this provision and granted the Wife's Motion for Summary Judgment against the Husband.

Alimony for Self-employed, Small Business Owners in Florida

In a recent alimony case captioned Gillette v. Gillette, the Florida Court of Appeal refused to impute income to a small business owner who chose to continue working in his own business rather than working for a larger employer.

The parties in this marriage were married for twelve years. The Husband was an engineer at a technology company. In 2001, the Husband started a computer storage business. He operated the computer storage business on a part time basis, and continued to work at the technology company until 2004. In 2004, the Husband resigned from the technology company and started working full time at his own computer storage business.

The Wife did not object to this arrangement until the divorce was filed. After the divorce was filed, the Wife objected to Husband working in his own computer storage business. She argued that the Husband was voluntarily unemployed and presented testimony from a vocational expert that Husband could earn significantly more as an employee of a larger company. 

The Division of Property and Assets in Jupiter, Florida

The Division of Property and Assets statute in Florida classifies property as marital assets and nonmarital assets. A divorce court divides marital assets between the parties. However, nonmarital assets are retained by their owner. When a nonmarital asset is enhanced in value by marital labor or by marital money, the enhancement in value itself becomes a marital asset. In a recently decided case captioned Higgins v. Musso, the wife received a home as part of her divorce from her first husband. She borrowed money from her parents to buy out her first husband's interest in the property. The wife's mother filed a lien on the property which proved that the wife borrowed money to purchase and renovate the home. The wife also utilized marital funds to fix the property after it was damaged by two hurricanes. The wife painted the ceiling, installed new carpet, and put in a new roof. Insurance proceeds paid for some of the repairs. The parties took out a line of credit to build the marital home and took out a loan to repay the line of credit. The home sold for over a million dollars. The sale proceeds were deposited into a bank account. The trial court ruled that the entire proceeds from the sale of the home were marital assets.

Child Relocation in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

In a recently decided child relocation case, the parties had two minor children. The Wife wanted to relocate to Virginia with the children. The Husband opposed the relocation. The parties lived in Virginia for many years prior to moving to Florida. After the parties lived in Florida for two years, the wife filed a petition for divorce. The wife requested that the trial court permit her to relocate with the children because she believed that the relocation would be in the children's best interest. Additionally, she argued that the relocation would eliminate her need to constantly travel for work.

Alimony Attorney in Wellington, Florida

In a recently decided alimony case captioned Barlow v. Barlow, the Florida Court of Appeal ruled that a trial court should utilize the most recent income figures available in calculating alimony and child support and not rely on past earnings. In this case the Husband appealed the trial court's ruling concerning the calculation of alimony and child support and the division of marital assets. The Court of Appeal ruled that the lower court made a mistake in calculating the Husband's bonus income. The Court reversed the lower court's ruling and required the trial court to retry the case.

The Husband and Wife agreed on the amount of the Husband's base salary at the time of the divorce in 2015. In calculating the Husband's income, the trial court utilized the Husband's bonus in 2013, rather than utilizing the Husband's bonus in 2014. The Florida alimony statute requires courts to take into consideration all sources of income available to both parties in awarding alimony. The Florida child support statute requires courts to include bonus income in calculating child support.

Paternity Cases in West Palm Beach, Florida

In paternity unwed/unmarried parents cases, gifts from the paying party's family members and gifts from the paying party's boyfriends and girlfriend may be included in calculating the paying party's income. In a recently decided case captioned Wood v. Wood, the father started working for a company owned by his girlfriend. In his financial affidavit the father listed his monthly income. The trial court found that the father earned a salary from the father's employment, but also believed that another source was paying the father's expenses. The trial court imputed additional income to the father from his family and from  his girlfriend. When the case was presented to the Florida Court of Appeal, the father argued that the trial court misunderstood his financial circumstances and argued that the trial court's ruling was erroneous. The Court of Appeal agreed with the father and found that the trial court's ruling was based on speculation. The Florida Court of Appeal and reversed the lower court's ruling.

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