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Since separation my spouse took all the money from an account to “live on,” can I do anything about this?

February 3rd, 2012 Comments off

In a typical divorce one of the major issues is “equitable distribution.” In Florida equity generally means a 50/50 split.  Although the courts do not have to evenly divide the property, the court must have legal justification for deviating from this standard. 

In a recent case the Husband had used an investment account worth approximately $50,000 to live on during the divorce case.  By the end of the case the account had no money left in it.  In ordering the equitable distribution the trial court ordered that account credited to the Husband.  However, the court did not make any provision for the fact that the Husband has literally spent the wife’s half of that account. The appellate court reversed the trial court stating:

the trial court’s attempt to offset Dan’s unauthorized expenditure by awarding him the worthless account was insufficient because Dan spent Ava’s half of the TD Ameritrade proceeds.”

Absent specific statutory reasons to deviate from an equitable distribution the trial court must order a near even split of the assets and liabilities.

See, Bryne v. Bryne, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D190 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2012).

Dustin Michael Butler is an Attorney with Martin Law Firm, P.L., whose practice focuses in Family Law and Civil Litigation.  He is admitted to practice law in the State of Florida and the Federal Court for the Middle District of Florida. He primarily practices in Lee County Florida in Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida.

My spouse wasted all of our money gambling will this be considered during the Divorce?

January 3rd, 2012 Comments off

The short answer is maybe.  Prior to considering the impact of the dissipation of marital funds the Court will need to consider a couple important factors.  First, when did this dissipation occur?  For example if the gambling occurred throughout the marriage it will be less likely to be an major factor in determining the division of property. However, if it occurred immediately around separation it is more likely to result in an offset of marital property. Second the Court will determine if there was a “marital purpose” to the dissipation.  Again, for example, if one spouse gambled while entertaining business clients which contributed to marital income, the dissipation will likely not favor an unequal offset.  However, if one spouse was an addict who simply wasted marital funds on gambling it could favor an unequal distribution.

In a recent case from just north of Fort Myers, the Court found that a Husband who gambled as part of entertaining clients throughout the entire marriage was serving a marital purpose.  As such the Court found it inappropriate to penalize him at the divorce for these actions. The Court found that while the Wife may have been frustrated by these actions throughout the marriage, the actions obviously served a marital purpose. 

See, Zambuto v. Zambuto, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D2758 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2011).

Dustin Michael Butler is an Attorney with Martin Law Firm, P.L., whose practice focuses in Family Law and Civil Litigation.  He is admitted to practice law in the State of Florida and the Federal Court for the Middle District of Florida. He primarily practices in Lee County Florida in Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida.