Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
When you file for divorce in Jacksonville and other cities in Florida, there is a standing court order that gives rules to the parties. The order requires that the parties not dissipate (i.e. selling, eliminating, etc.) marital assets. So, if you are married and then file for divorce and think that you are going to drain the bank account or sell your car for $1, you are sadly mistaken if you believe there will not be consequences.
In a Florida divorce, the court may actually look at marital assets and determine what the value of the assets are at the date of separation. However, the court also has discretion to go back further than two (2) years from the date of filing for divorce, if it can be shown that one of the parties hid assets or destroyed assets in anticipation of marriage. In a divorce, you are required to provide bank statements, financial statements of investments, and much more. In that discovery process, if it is shown that a spouse hid assets before the date of filing for divorce, then that spouse could be on the hook for reimbursing the other spouse 50% of the total value of that asset.
In a recent Florida appellate court decision, Amos v. Amos, 1D11-2714 (Fla. 1st DCA October 3, 2012), it was found that the Wife had actually moved a stock account into her brother’s name three years prior to filing for divorce. While §61.075, Florida Statutes, provides that you can go back two years from the date of filing, the appellate court found that you can go back further in finding hidden or dissipated assets to do “equity and justice.” This was previously held in another case, Beers v. Beers 724 So.2d 109 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998).
What can actually happen is that the party that moved, hid, sold, or otherwise dissipated the asset can be held liable for paying the other spouse 50% of the fair market value of the asset. This means that the act of selling priceless artwork for $1 like on the First Wives Club cannot actually be done in Florida. If a spouse were to do that, then that spouse may be required to pay the other one-half the actual value and not one-half of the price she or he got from the sale.
If you are going through a divorce in Florida, then you should speak with an experienced family law or divorce attorney to better understand your rights and options.