Tag: Property Division

Divorce and the Engagement Ring

Kim Kardashian reportedly refused to give back her engagement ring to estranged husband, former basketball player, Kris Humphries. Is a spouse obligated to return an engagement ring after a divorce has been filed – whether the ring is worth $2mm or not?

engagement ring

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

A source close to the Kardashian situation reports that her husband Kris contends that the marriage was a total sham and that Kim only wed him for publicity so therefore she has no right to keep such an expensive gift.

This is the latest battle in the drawn-out Kardashian-Humphries divorce proceedings. The reality star filed for divorce from Humphries in October 2011 after just 72-days of marriage. He responded a month later by filing for an annulment on the basis of fraud and a legal separation.

Florida Engagement Rings

I’ve written about some of the history and law about engagement rings before. Until the 1930s, a woman jilted by her fiancé could sue for financial compensation for “damage” to her reputation under what was known as the “Breach of Promise to Marry” action.

As courts began to abolish such actions, diamond ring sales rose in response to a need for a symbol of financial commitment from the groom. Florida abolished the appropriately termed “heart balm statutes”. Heart balm statutes were laws allowing couples to sue each other to recover money for the alienation of affections and breaches of contract to marry.

As one court poetically noted:

[A] gift given by a man to a woman on condition that she embark on the sea of matrimony with him is no different from a gift based on the condition that the donee sail on any other sea. If, after receiving the provisional gift, the donee refuses to leave the harbor – if the anchor of contractual performance sticks in the sands of irresolution and procrastination – the gift must be restored to the donor. A fortiori would this be true when the donee not only refuses to sail with the donor, but, on the contrary, walks up the gangplank of another ship arm in arm with the donor’s rival?

After an engagement ring is given, and if the couple doesn’t marry, in New York the law deems a broken engagement as no one’s fault. Accordingly, the ring should be given back to the giver, with few exceptions. Most states have adopted that approach.

This is true in Florida. Lawsuits to recover an engagement ring by disappointed donors usually are resolved by courts looking to see if the engagement was terminated by the donee or by mutual consent of the parties. The rationale is that rings are given on the implied condition that a marriage ensue.

Once a marriage proposal is extended and accepted — once the promise is made — no matter what day of the year, that ring is no longer considered a gift. It’s a contract to enter into marriage.

The general rule in Florida is that an engagement ring given before the marriage, becomes a non-marital gift if the marriage is completed. If so, the ring becomes the non-marital property of the Wife.

If the engagement ring is viewed by the court as a non-marital asset, it is not subject to equitable distribution in divorce proceedings, and the spouse keeps it as their own.

Reality TV

Relying on real attorneys and not Judge Judy, both sides of the Kardashian case have accused each other in court and in the media of deliberately slowing down the divorce process, which has lasted five times longer than their marriage.

Recently, Kardashian’s attorney told the judge that her client is “handcuffed to Mr. Humphries” because his team is still not ready for trial. The estranged couple is set to return to court in mid-February to determine a trial date.

The Huffington Post article is here.


Can your Spouse Secretly Sell your House?

Real Housewives of New Jersey star Danielle Staub is claiming her estranged husband Marty Caffrey listed their Englewood, N.J. home for sale without telling her. Can that happen in an equitable distribution state?

equitable distribution

Real Listing?

According to People:

“Danielle did not know her home, where she lives, was listed for sale until she saw a story about it online,” the rep says. “This is yet another example of the blatant disrespect and emotional abuse she has endured in this relationship.”

Caffrey, 66, filed for divorce from the reality star in August—just four months after their wedding, and Staub, 56, has been vocal about how hurt she was by how public their split was.

In July, Caffrey posted a negative rant about Staub on social media. The pair took out restraining orders against each other that same month following a domestic dispute at the New Jersey home that is now on the market. The restraining orders were both later dropped.

The six-bedroom, seven-bathroom house features a gourmet kitchen, high ceilings, a media room, and a sauna. The property is listed for $2.195 million with Frances Aaron and Miriam Finkel of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty.

When asked about the sale of their home, Caffrey tells People, “Danielle’s version is untrue and other than that I have no comment.”

Real Equitable Distribution

I’ve written about the equitable distribution of houses before. New Jersey, like Florida, is an equitable distribution state. California, and many other western states, are community property states.

In Florida, in every divorce the family court will set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities, and in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal.

All real property held by the parties as tenants by the entireties, whether acquired prior to or during the marriage, is presumed to be a marital asset in Florida. If a spouse makes a claim to the contrary, the burden of proof shall be on the party asserting the claim that the property is nonmarital.

It is unclear whether Staub and Caffrey have joint title to the New Jersey house, or it is titled in one of their names alone, or even a holding company. Generally, it’s a good idea to have all title owners sign a contract, or it may not be enforceable against the owner who did not sign.

Real Troubles

Back in New Jersey, although Staub claims she was unaware of her home being put on the market, she recently told People that she considers herself a “warrior,” and her experience with this divorce has been no different.

Prior to their public problems, the two had trouble agreeing over many things in their relationship, Staub said. Tense dynamics with their blended family (Caffrey has three adult children from a previous relationship) also came into play.

“He doesn’t like me and he doesn’t like my children,” Staub claimed. “My kids have never been anything but respectful and lovely towards him even though he hasn’t been the same towards their mom.

Caffrey, in a statement to People at the time, said, “This is not my world nor do I have any further interest in it. These are manufactured celebrities in manufactured lives who manufacture their own truths. I look forward to getting back to my reality among real people. My loving family and vast amount of friends.”

The People article is here.


Today’s Property Division

According to People, former Today Show anchor, Matt Lauer, is finalizing his divorce with Annette Roque. The settlement is rumored to involve him paying his wife up to $20 million. The details of the property division however is unknown, but is a reminder that divorce property division laws in Florida recently changed in a big way.

Property Division

Good Morning Property Divisions

According to People, the couple, who wed 20 years ago in 1998, has agreed to share custody of their children. He is rumored to have a lot of guilt and wants to make sure Annette is taken care of.


They seem happier and their family and friends are thrilled to see they are both moving forward.”

Left unsaid in the article is what happens to the $7 million coop in New York City, the Hamptons beachfront estate he bought for $36 million from actor Richard Gere, his Sag Harbor home, and other properties.

Florida Property Division . . . and Friends

I’ve written about property division before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their non-marital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

Marital assets and liabilities include, in part, assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them.

Passive Appreciation and Morning Joe

Passive appreciation of a nonmarital asset may also be a marital asset the court must equitably distribute. For example, Lauer bought his upper East Side apartment for roughly $6 million, but has it listed for over $7 million.

In 2010, the Florida Supreme Court held that “passive appreciation of a nonmarital asset … is properly considered a marital asset where marital funds or the efforts of either party contributed to the appreciation.”

The Florida Supreme Court created a formula for courts to use in determining the value of the passive appreciation of nonmarital real property for equitable distribution.

But the formula was flawed because there is no relationship between the amount of marital funds used to pay down a mortgage during a marriage, and the passive appreciation of the property.

Also, the case requires a nonowner spouse to have made contributions to the property as a prerequisite to sharing in the passive appreciation of the property.

Live with Kaaa

Recently, Governor Scott signed a bill to fix the problem. The bill amends our equitable distribution statute and establishes a statutory formula for courts to use.

The new statutory formula does not require the nonowner spouse to have made contributions to the property, and also bars the marital portion of nonmarital real property from exceeding the total net equity of the property on the valuation date in the divorce action.

The People article is available here.


Divorce and Leaving the House

Rumors abound of marital discord between Melania and President Trump. Generally, couples fight over who stays and leaves the house during a divorce. What if the marital home is the White House should the First Lady move out?

Meet the Trumps

Some people are claiming the issue of vacating the marital house is uncharted territory for a sitting president (assuming they divorce), since no American president has ever gotten a divorce while in office.

Usually, both spouses are entitled to stay in the marital home. However, staying in the home can be denied if a spouse is damaging it, or the children are exposed to domestic violence, for instance.

However, Donald Trump doesn’t have a deed to the White House, it’s not his property. The White House is owned by the people of the United States of America.

There’s also the issue of presidential security. Having an estranged spouse in the White House may make the Secret Service uneasy if there were divorce proceedings.

Housing Issues

I’ve written about the marital house during a divorce before. Generally, the home remains a marital asset, which is subject to equitable distribution, regardless of who lives there during the divorce process.

If a home is marital then both parties have equal rights to buy – out the other’s share. Both may also be on the hook for liabilities.

Children’s Issues

Until a divorce parenting plan in place, if you are interested in maintaining a meaningful relationship in your child’s life, leaving the home before a timesharing agreement is entered may show a lack of real interest in the child’s daily life.

Moving out can create the appearance of a new ‘primary residential parent’ by default. Worse, if the process takes a long time, it creates a new status quo.


The person leaving during a divorce may still have to contribute for the expenses of the home while also paying for a new home. It can be costly, and prohibitive expensive when you know that the process will take a long time.


Staying in the same home could create an incentive to negotiate a final settlement because living with your soon to be ex-spouse is very uncomfortable. However, if someone moves out, the person remaining in the home is sitting pretty and may be less inclined to settle.

If you Leave

Before moving out, there should be some discussions about maintaining the home and who is paying for which expenses, an inventory should be made of the personal property, artwork, silverware etc., and the boundaries for when the ‘out-spouse’ can use and enjoy the home after vacation

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Because both sides during a divorce have a right to live in a “jointly titled home” during divorce, except for extreme circumstances such as domestic violence, the First Lady should have no trouble.

However, the White House is part of the President’s compensation package for serving as President of the United States. If so, it is President Trump’s right to live there and not his spouse’s.

They could also both live in White House. The White House is built big enough that Melania would have an entire room, bedroom, almost a wing, just for herself.

Having been burned down by the British, the White House could easily handle divorcing spouses. Right?

The Daily News article is here.


Property Division is not Nirvana

Kurt Cobain’s acoustic guitar from the MTV Unplugged concert is legendary. The equitable distribution of Kurt’s iconic guitar was a major property division issue in the divorce between Kurt’s daughter and her husband. The case of Kurt’s guitar is now decided.

About a Girl

The divorce between Kurt Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain and her Isaiah Silva may be over, but Cobain lost a prized possession to her now Ex-Husband: her father’s famous guitar.

Isaiah claimed he owns Kurt’s former Martin D-18E guitar from the famed MTV performance. The guitar is a very rare; only 300 were made.

For the Cobains however, the guitar’s sentimental value is immeasurable, as it was the last guitar played by Kurt before his suicide.

Silva argued the model had given him the guitar as a present, while she denied ever giving it to him. That was for the judge to decide.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about equitable distribution and various types of property divisions in Florida before. Let’s assume that the guitar was in fact a wedding gift from Frances to Isaiah.

What happens? In all likelihood, the guitar would be considered marital property, not just Isaiah’s, and would have to be equitably distributed.

In Florida, “Marital assets and liabilities” include interspousal gifts during the marriage. In divorce proceedings, the court must divide the marital assets between the parties.

Courts begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on certain relevant factors.

These factors include things like the contribution to the marriage by each spouse, the economic circumstances of the parties, and any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party for instance.

So, what are “marital assets and liabilities”? They include things like assets acquired during the marriage, and interspousal gifts during the marriage for instance.

However, “nonmarital assets” include things like assets acquired before the marriage, and assets acquired by non-interspousal gift. This sort of non-interspousal gift argument may have been similar to what Isaiah argued successfully in court.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Although she lost the iconic guitar in the equitable distribution, Frances did get the house they bought together, and doesn’t have to provide any spousal support; Silva had been asking for $25,000 a month.

The People article is here.


Property Division is Not Half Bad

They say a guy knows he’s in love when he loses interest in his car. A Kansas man is showing the reverse is also true. Alternatively, that would explain why the Kansas man still clings to his half-of-a-car long after his love ended. At the very least,his half-a-car is physical proof that a property division means equal halves.

The Better Half

According to the Kansas City Star, the late-Edgerton Mayor, Ray Braun, used to own the gas station where the front half of his 1987 Chevrolet Citation is parked, a testament to a successful property division.

On the side of the car is a sign which reads:

“Divorced. She got ½.”

The former mayor is the culprit who put his half of the equitable distribution – the half-car – in front of the gas station.

Some view his half a car as a landmark. If you go to Kansas City, or anywhere around, and ask about this town, they have no clue where it’s at. But if you ask them, ‘You remember that little half-car that’s off 56?’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘Well, that’s that little town.

But at a special morning meeting, the three council members in attendance decided unanimously for the city attorney to draft a resolution to finally be rid of the half car.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties. In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal.

However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, the court can give less than equal.

When a court orders an unequal distribution, it must base the decision on certain factors, including some of the following:

  • The contribution to the marriage by each spouse.
  • The economic circumstances of the parties.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities.
  • The contribution to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
  • The desirability of retaining any asset.
  • The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
  • Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

The courts don’t even have to wait for the end of the case to distribute property. Florida law allows courts, if they find good cause that there should be an interim partial distribution during a divorce action, to equitably distribute property sooner.

You Don’t Know the Half of It

Braun fitted his half-car with rear caster wheels and used to drive it in parades. But City Council President Clay Longanecker says the car has become “an eyesore” and the Edgerton codes department has ruled it has to be disposed of.

To some Edgerton residents however, the half-car has for years been seen as a welcoming post, a kind of unofficial eyesore monument. and some may fight to keep it.

The biggest joke of all? Braun was never divorced.

The Kansas City Star article is here.


Injunctions: Property Division on Ice

Rapper Vanilla Ice’s divorce is getting hot! His wife’s lawyers filed court papers trying to stop him from selling marital property by asking for a court injunction. You can’t have a property division if your spouse gets rid of the assets first. Here’s how to protect yourself.

Ice Ice Baby

According to TMZ, Vanilla Ice’s Wife wants to prevent a fire sale in the wake of their impending divorce, which has already gotten underway with him allegedly unloading their jet skis.

He’s a gentleman, he’s not hiding anything”

said a source in Ice’s entourage who asked to remain anonymous because there’s a gag order in the case.

Vanilla Ice’s estranged wife, Laura Van Winkle, filed a motion for an injunction to prevent her husband from selling marital property earlier this month to stop any more sales.

Freezing Assets

I’ve written about property division before, but a property division does you no good if the assets are long gone. How exactly do you avoid getting frozen out of your fair share of the property if your spouse is getting rid of it before a court can divide it? One way is an injunction.

Our divorce statute has a provision which specifically allows a court to freeze assets when either party is about to remove his or her property out of the state, or fraudulently convey or conceal it.

Florida courts can enter an injunction against the party or the property and make such orders as will secure alimony or support to the party who should receive it. A temporary injunction is an extraordinary remedy which are granted sparingly. The requirement to even be entitled to a temporary injunction, are tough.

In conclusion, Mrs. Ice must show that she will suffer irreparable harm unless the status quo is maintained; she has no adequate remedy at law; she has a clear legal right to the relief requested; and, the temporary injunction will serve the public interest.

There are plenty of examples of injunctions being used to prevent the waste of property. For example, they can be used to prevent both the sale of a home and prohibit you from going into further debt through a mortgage or line of credit.

Jet Skis on Ice

According to the article, Mrs. Ice claims Vanilla is in possession of nearly all of the couple’s marital assets, and she can’t stop him from doing what he wants with their property without a court injunction.

Mrs. Ice filed her original divorce petition in 2016. She asked to be allowed to stay in the family house, child support for the ice, ice baby, alimony, and attorney’s fees.

The TMZ article is here.


Ocean’s 492 Million: Divorce Fraud

A London court ordered the seizure of a $492 million yacht in Dubai, to enforce one of the largest divorce property divisions in history. The reason for the large payout? The family law judge found that the husband tried to hide his assets.

© A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

The British court ruled that Farkhad Akhmedov should transfer ownership of the 380-foot boat MV Luna, currently impounded in a dry dock in Dubai, to his wife, Tatiana Akhmedova. The judge granted the order to uphold his earlier $646 million judgment.

Judge Charles Haddon-Cave said that Akhmedov tried to hide his ownership of the Luna behind a group of companies and moved the ship to Dubai on the belief that it was “well beyond the reach of an English court judgment.”

Fraud and Unequal Distribution

I’ve written about property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Akhmedov divorce, the court has the authority.

However, the court must base an unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

It has been a long-standing rule in Florida that an unequal distribution of marital assets may be justified to compensate for one spouse’s “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after filing of the petition….” For example, hiding your $492m yacht in the Middle East.

High Seas Adventure

In the final days of the divorce, the billionaire changed his ownership of the yacht to another of his companies. The transactions form part of the billionaire’s “continuing campaign to defeat Akhmedova by concealing his assets in a web of offshore companies.

The Luna, which boasts a 20-meter outdoor swimming pool and eight smaller boats, also has a mini-submarine.

Akhmedov said he had supported his wife after their marriage was dissolved in Russia. He blamed cynical lawyers for later filing for divorce in London, and U.K. politics for the court’s decision.

The couple met in 1989, marrying four years later and moved to London where the wife has lived with the children ever since. The marriage ended in late 2014.

Akhmedov, who refused to take part in the U.K. trial and moved back to Russia, has allegedly moved his substantial modern art collection, valued at 90.5 million pounds, to Lichtenstein, his wife said in the court documents in January.

The judge said that they needed to move quickly to enforce the order over the boat. Akhmedov “has over the past 18 months repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to take rapid and multifarious steps to evade enforcement at every turn.”

The Bloomberg article is here.


Divorce Auction

Russell Crowe sold dozens of items this past weekend at a Sotheby’s auction to help him fund his divorce from ex-wife Danielle Spencer. The auction appears to have worked better than expected.

The Art of Divorce

Crowe titled the event “The Art of Divorce,” the divorce auction took place in Sydney on his 54th birthday and featured more than 200 items, including movie memorabilia, antique treasures, artwork and a collection of instruments.

A replica Roman chariot from the same movie in which Crowe played the general-turned-gladiator Maximus, thought to be worth up to AU$10,000, was sold for AU$65,000.

Sotheby’s had estimated the sale would bring in up to AU$3.7m (more than $2.8 million in U.S. dollars), but many items sold for more than their original pricing.

Florida Property Division

In Florida, courts distribute marital assets and liabilities between the parties with the premise that the distribution should be equal unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution. Although it may seem like it, equitable distribution is not an auction.

I’ve written about various aspects of property division before, including Russell Crowe’s proposed auction when it was first announced.

Marital assets are properties acquired and debts incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them.

Marital assets and liabilities also include the enhancement in value and appreciation of non-marital assets resulting either from the efforts of either party during the marriage.

Dissipation and Waste

One of the relevant factors courts look to in property division is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition.

Spouses can dissipate assets by giving away money irresponsibly, spending money on girlfriends, gambling losses, and drug usage. Some people would rather lose the money outright than split it with their spouses.

If the dissipation of an asset resulted from misconduct, the question is whether a spouse used marital funds for his own benefit unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage was undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.

Misconduct is not mismanagement or even a simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There is no report that the Crowe auction was a waste of assets.

Instead, there has to be evidence of the spending spouse’s intentional dissipation or destruction of the asset. Where marital misconduct results in a depletion or dissipation of marital assets, it can serve as a basis for unequal division.

Alternatively, courts can look at the misconduct, and can assign to the spending spouse as part of their equitable distribution, the misconduct losses.

Battle for the Jockstrap?

Among the most popular items at the auction was the breastplate he wore in “Gladiator” when his character Maximus (spoiler alert) bites the dust. The piece sold for $125,000 while matching leather wrist cuffs scored $32,000.

Crowe also sold items from movies like “Master and Commander,” “The Silver Brumby” and “Proof,” though the Royal Navy dress blues from “Master” proved extremely popular, bringing in a $115,000 haul.

One of the more curious items was the leather jockstrap Crowe wore in the 2005 film “Cinderella Man.” The protective piece went for $7,000 to one lucky bidder.

“I put it in the collection as a piece of whimsy and a bit of a gag. Funny enough, it’s garnered a lot of attention,”.

He and Spencer wed in 2003, and news broke of their split in 2012. The divorce is just about finalized, and the ex-couple share two children.

The auction raised money for the A.C.M.F. charity, which provides free music education and instruments to disadvantaged and indigenous children and youth at risk in Sydney.

The New York Times article is here.


Jump Street

So much for The Vow. Channing Tatum and his wife came out Fighting, announcing their divorce. The appreciation of their properties and investment makes their property division quite The Dilemma – even if they don’t become Public Enemies.

This is the End

The former couple, Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, both 37, announced their separation on Monday after almost nine years of marriage and after welcoming their daughter in 2013.

We have lovingly chosen to separate…love is a beautiful adventure that is taking us on different paths for now [who writes these? ed.].

According to People, it’s estimated that Tatum made $60 million in 2013 for movies like The Vow, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. He also launched his own vodka line during the marriage.

Property Division

I’ve written extensively about property divisions. Equitable distribution, as property division is called in Florida, requires courts to set aside each spouse’s non-marital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts.

Marital assets and liabilities include, in part, assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them.

Marital property then, could include Tatum’s vodka business and other valuable assets purchased during the marriage.

Step Up

Complicating matters is that Tatum was not as well-known when he married. After their marriage both of their careers grew, the stock market rebounded, and home values rocketed.

The Tatum divorce shows how stakes can rise during a marriage, and how improvements to marital – and even non-marital or premarital assets – can come into play.

Florida recently amended a law dealing with whether there is a marital portion of a nonmarital house with a mortgage paid down by marital money, and if so, how to divide the marital portion.

The issue of the appreciation of non-marital property paid with marital funds includes two components:

  1.  a portion of the enhanced value of the marital asset resulting from the contributions of the nonowner spouse and
  2.  a portion of the value of the passive appreciation of that asset that accrued during the marriage.

The new law amends our statute, and establishes a new statutory formula.


The best way to avoid the process of an expensive property division case is to have a prenuptial agreement and a post-nuptial agreement to discuss these issues before the divorce.

Alternatively, the issues can be taken care of in a private mediation. As a last resort, they will have to fight the case in court, and have a judge decide the issues.

As a general rule, divorce litigation is something that should be avoided because things go haywire. Court battles are long, painful and expensive.

One of the other Side Effects, is that divorce also bleeds into every aspect of a person’s professional and personal life.

The People article is here.