The division of property and assets in a divorce proceeding cannot include property that was previously conveyed to the parties’ children. In a recently decided case captioned Perez v. Perez, the parties were married for twenty-three years. The husband and wife owned several pieces of real estate. During the course of the marriage, they conveyed four pieces of real estate to their sons. As part of the final judgment in the divorce proceeding, the trial court awarded some of the real estate that was conveyed to the children to the husband and some of this real estate to the wife.
During the course of this divorce proceeding, the wife sued her sons as third party defendants claiming that her husband and sons had engaged in a scheme to defraud her. The husband contended that the wife agreed to the transfer at the time that it was made. In point of fact, the wife signed the deeds conveying the property to her sons. In making its equitable distribution award, the trial court included the properties that the parties had conveyed to the children.
The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling on the division of property and assets. The appellate court stated that the lower court improperly awarded property to the husband and wife that they had previously conveyed to their children. The Florida statutes create a clear rule as to when property is deemed to be marital and nonmarital. Absent a separation agreement, the date to determine when an asset is marital or nonmarital is the date of the filing of the divorce. The lower court should have looked at what the parties owned when the divorce was filed. An asset that was previously conveyed to another person cannot be awarded to a spouse as part of an equitable distribution award in a divorce proceeding. The property deeded to the children was a nonmarital asset and should not have been part of the equitable distribution in this matter. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court’s distribution of the son’s property was improper and reversed the ruling.