Tag: unequal property division

Kelly Clarkson and Divorce Fraud

Kelly Clarkson’s divorce from husband Brandon Blackstock, who was also her manager, is heating up after she filed a fraud claim against Blackstock’s management company with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Kelly Clarkson Divorce Fraud

Never Again

If you thought Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock’s divorce couldn’t get any messier, well, you were wrong. Though Clarkson has declined to share many details about why they’re divorcing a lot has been made public throughout a series of court documents.

In September, when the couple filed for divorce, Blackstock’s father Narvel sued his son’s ex-wife for $1.4 million, stating that she owed his company, Starstruck Management Group, for unpaid management fees.

Clarkson made the recent filing in October, in which she called her oral agreement with Starstruck Management Group a “fraudulent and subterfuge device” and accused Blackstock and his father, Narvel Blackstock, of being unlicensed talent agents in California.

Clarkson’s filing not only attempts to void her agreement with Starstruck and the Blackstocks, but it also seeks the money she paid for their services from 2007–20, arguing that Clarkson paid “unconscionable fees” for “illegal services.”

The petition, set to be ruled on in February, could also dismiss a separate lawsuit that Starstruck filed against Clarkson in September. That suit claimed Clarkson already owes an additional $1.4 million in commissions from The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Voice along with millions of dollars from future payments.

“Starstruck developed Clarkson into a mega superstar,” that filing claimed. Clarkson’s filing, meanwhile, argues she should not have to make those payments either.

If successful, Clarkson could see up to tens of millions of dollars back in her pocket come February, given her touring and TV success over the past 13 years..

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud involving property. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as bank accounts, between parties under the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include things like the financial situation the parties, the length of the marriage, whether someone has interrupted their career or an educational opportunity, or how much one spouse contributed to the other’s career or education.

Another important factor is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

Dissipation of marital assets, such as taking money from a joint bank account, happens a lot. In those cases, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning the dissipated asset to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

Misconduct, for purposes of dissipation, does not mean mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

The Trouble with Love is

Clarkson has filed a Petition to Determine Controversy with the Labor Commissioner’s Office claiming that Starstruck and the Blackstocks had violated Section 1700 of the California Labor Code.

That is also known as the Talent Agencies Act, a controversial California regulation that requires any individual who is acting as an agent in the state to be licensed. The difference being that a manager handles talent’s day-to-day operations while they are on the job while an agent is tasked with booking those jobs.

Agents are also required to provide a surety bond of $50,000, which Clarkson claims Starstruck failed to do while operating as an agent. They also failed to obtain her written approval to act as an agent, failed to work in a manner that served her best interests.

What they did do, claims Clarkson, is demand “unconscionable fees” and give “false information,” make “false representations,” and conceal “material information from [Clarkson] concerning certain matters relating to [Starstruck’s] … violation of the Labor Code.”

Clarkson and her attorney Edwin McPherson argue in the filing that:

“based on the wrongful acts and conduct of [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks] … all agreements between the parties, should be declared void and unenforceable, no monies should be paid by [Clarkson] to [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks], and all monies previously paid by [Clarkson] to [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks] should be disgorged forthwith.”

The Yahoo article is here.

 

Divorce Real Estate Problems: House Custody?

You can face many real estate problems in a divorce, but how about house custody? One unique case involves a couple which jointly owns a home, are both on the mortgage, and whose children left. She wants to be able to spend time living at their home alone. The husband disagrees and refuses to leave for any amount of time. Does she have the legal right to house custody half of the time?

House Custody

Brick and Mortar Issues

The New York Times article re-frames the issue as a case of a married couple, jointly owning a house, with equal rights to it. So, the article states both need to be in agreement about what to do with the property.

Neither of you can sell the house without the other’s consent, nor can you limit each other’s access to it. It’s as much his house as it is yours.

If they bought it together and maintained it together, it’s marital property and most likely it would be divided 50-50. Most likely, they would be both entitled to live there until the place is sold.

The article suggests that for the moment, set aside your immediate desire to share time at the house and, instead, figure out what you ultimately want for the house once your divorce is finalized.

Do you want to keep the house? If so, you may eventually need to buy out your husband when you divide your assets. Or do you want to move? In that case, your husband could either buy you out or you could sell the property and divide the assets.

Florida Divorce Real Estate Problems

I’ve written about real estate problems in divorce cases before. A big question frequently arises: should you move out of the house before the divorce is over?

Sometimes the arguing gets too intense, and the court must intervene. For one couple in Brooklyn, their arguing resulted in their being ordered to build a wall dividing their home so each could stay in the house peacefully.

This was not just a simple line on the floor as in the 1989 movie: War of the Roses, but an actual wall of plywood and sheetrock through the middle of their house (see picture above). Interestingly, the judge gave the wife the kitchen and the husband the dining room.

The marital home is a valuable asset, maybe your most valuable asset, but it is also a place for you to live in and it is an important, and possibly big part, of the final settlement. Consider the following:

Marital Asset

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 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.

Cost

The person leaving 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.

Settlement

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

The New York Times piece correctly suggests thinking about your long-term goals. Once you’ve done that, try to reach a temporary agreement for how to weather this transition period.

That may mean that you alternate time spent in the house, or it may mean that one of you moves out, or that you both continue to live there until you can sell the property and move on with your lives. Moving out will have financial ramifications for both of you and those need to be carefully considered.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Unequal Distribution in an Unequal World

There may be an unequal distribution in an unequal world, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s wife filed for divorce. She is asking for the couple’s two homes in their divorce. She might just be able to walk away with them if he doesn’t contest her request pretty soon.

Unequal Distribution

Uncommon Loons

Kellie Chauvin came to the U.S. as a child refugee from Laos. The couple met at the hospital she used to work at when Chauvin brought a suspect in for a health check. They later married on June 12, 2010, in Washington County.

She filed for divorce two days after her husband was charged with murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd, who died after then-officer Chauvin planted his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd lay in handcuffs.

The homes are only one part of a marital estate, and without understanding what the other person is being awarded outside of the homes, [the divorce petition] is not actually telling you whether this person is asking for more than 50 percent.

Derek Chauvin, had 30 days from the date he received notice of the divorce petition to file an answer and counter-petition if he wanted to challenge any of his wife’s proposals. That expired Friday.

If no answer and counter-petition are filed by the 30-day deadline, a petitioner can wait a period of time and ask a judge to proceed by default, which could grant what was requested.

Florida Unequal Distribution

I have written about property division, called “equitable distribution” in Florida, before. Florida, like Minnesota, is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing houses and other marital properties in divorce.

That means that in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Work divorce, the court must base the 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.

Additionally, courts can consider the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.

However, courts generally can’t base an unequal distribution on one spouse’s disproportionate financial contributions to the marriage unless there is a showing of some “extraordinary services over and above the normal marital duties.”

Land of Lakes

Kellie Chauvin, a former Realtor who was unemployed when she filed the petition, requested a “fair and equitable division” of personal property, vehicles and all bank, retirement and investment accounts. She neither sought nor offered alimony payments.

She asked for sole ownership of their primary home in Oakdale and a townhouse in Windermere, Fla., which were both bought after they married in 2010 and are listed in both of their names.

The Chauvins bought the Oakdale house in 2017 for $260,000. It is now valued at $273,800, according to Washington County property records. They bought the Florida townhouse in 2011 for $210,900; property records put the value last year as $226,282.

Outstanding mortgages and equity, which were not addressed in the divorce petition, are key in determining whether acquiring both homes would be a financial boon, but it’s not unusual for such petitions to be vague, and for exact property appraisals and financial accounting to be determined at a later date.

Derek Chauvin’s pension from his 19-year career at the police department could also factor in the division of assets. The pension was not specifically addressed in the petition. Chauvin, who was fired days after Floyd’s death, has not begun collecting his pension so its gross value has not yet been determined. Once it has, it will be public information.

Defaulting in a divorce is rare, but people do regularly miss the deadline to respond for a number of common reasons, including financial problems, mental health issues and other life events. And right now, Derek Chauvin has bigger things to worry about, and is due in court Sept. 11 for a hearing in the criminal case.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune article is here.

Photo credit John Picken from Chicago, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

 

Property Division and the Family Castle

For many American families, their home is their castle. When divorce is on the horizon, your castle may fall under attack. Florida’s property division statute requires an equitable distribution of all marital property, but it is not a how-to guide. Money magazine has an article looking at some of your options.

Property Division Castle2

The Coronavirus Crash

Before the silent enemy Covid-19 hit us, the median value of a home in the U.S. was $247,084, and the average amount of mortgage debt a person topped $202,000.

With many experts predicting the coronavirus siege will lead to a surge in divorce, deciding how to deal with your marital home – and its accompanying debt – can be a dangerous financial burden in every case. Below are some strategies to defend your castle.

Selling the Castle

For many couples simply putting a shared home up for sale may seem like the simplest solution, but remember, that step won’t automatically erase all mortgage headaches or end the need to co-operate with your former spouse.

You will still need to agree on a realtor and asking price as well as determine how the continuing mortgage payments will be made. Will you be splitting the expense 50/50? Will the spouse who continues living there make the full payment?

If your home sells for more than the outstanding balance on the mortgage, how will the remaining proceeds be divided between you both after settling the joint debt? Worse, if you end up underwater on the mortgage, you’ll have to decide if you can even afford to sell it and how you’ll pay off the remaining debt if you do.

There are also the taxes. You can each exclude the first $250,000  in capital gains — the amount your home has appreciated in value since you bought it — from your taxable income, if the home was your primary residence and you owned it for more than two years.

If you opt to file a joint tax return, you can exclude up to $500,000. Earnings above that exclusion or on the sale of, say, a vacation property, could stick you with a tax bill.

Keeping the Home

Divorce upends life, and it makes sense that a majority of the time at least one spouse isn’t ready to leave the marital home and add the stress of moving to their to-do list.

The idea of remaining in a familiar, comfortable home can seem even more compelling when there are children who might have to change schools or leave behind friends.

But many financial advisors and divorce attorneys caution against keeping your old home after a divorce, calling it one of the biggest mistakes you can make during the process.

If you want to remain living in the home you once shared with your ex-spouse, you need to carefully review your budget and weigh whether you can individually afford it.

Refinancing the Mortgage

If you have $50,000 in equity in your current home and you’ve agreed to a 50-50 split of its value, you’ll need to come up with $25,000 to buy out your former spouse. In return, your ex-spouse should remove their name from the property title, typically using a quitclaim deed.

If you don’t have the cash, you might need to give up other assets in the divorce negotiations equal to the home’s equity, such as your investment account, 401(k) or IRA.

However, qualifying as a single person can be challenging as lenders will examine your individual earnings, credit history, and savings to see if they believe you’re capable of repaying the loan.

Staying Co-owners of the Manor

If you are unable to refinance or payoff the mortgage, you may be able to keep the status quo. This is not recommended, as it requires a high degree of trust in your former spouse.

Since both your names will remain on the home and on the mortgage, you’ll both be liable for making payments. Should your ex-spouse stop contributing their share, you could face more debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy or poor credit.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about houses and property divisions before. In Florida, every divorce proceeding the court has to set apart nonmarital property, and distribute the marital property.

Florida judges always begin with the premise that the property distribution should be equal, unless there is a reason for an unequal distribution based on several factors.

One of the factors the court has to consider is the desirability of keeping the home for the kids or a spouse, if it’s equitable to do so, if it’s in the best interest of the child, and financially feasible.

However, whether keeping the home for yourself or the kids is financially feasible requires you to have an honest look at what you can and can’t afford. Some strategies to keep the home include:

Raiding Savings

While not the best solution, pulling from savings can help you keep hold of the home. By obtaining a court ordered qualified domestic relations order or QDRO, you can gain access to a portion of your ex-spouse’s employee retirement plan assets.

Such funds may not be subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty for people under age 59.5, meaning you’ll save more on taxes by using this money to secure your home than you would by tapping other accounts you may have.

Alternatively, if you have Roth IRA savings, you could pull an amount equal to what you’ve contributed tax and penalty free, again making it a smarter way to meet your mortgage payment needs.

Raising Rents

If you’re really determined to keep the home, but cannot pull from savings or refinance, it might be worth brainstorming ways you can earn income from it to help cover the mortgage and upkeep costs.

Renting out the whole home while you’re on vacation – or even just a bedroom or two when in town – could make you hundreds a night. Airbnb hosts, for instance, can make over $900 a month according to research.

If you can’t refinance the mortgage in your own name, keeping the home isn’t a wise decision. It is better to restructure your life in a way that makes sense in the long run, rather than pillage your other financial accounts.

The Money article is here.

 

Divorce and Business Property Division

When one of Zach Hendrix’s three business partners said he was getting divorced, sympathy turned into shock as everyone realized that a soon-to-be ex-wife could become a co-owner. Understanding the law around business and property division in a divorce is the first step to protecting yourself.

business property divisions

Open for Business

When a small business owner divorces, the company can become part of a property fight; the battle can end with owners losing all or part of their businesses. Or, they or the company may be forced to take on debt to prevent an ex from sharing ownership.

Even when ownership isn’t at stake, the rancor and uncertainty around a divorce can take a toll on a company — owners may be distracted and unable to focus on what the business needs.

Hendrix and two of his co-owners had to borrow a combined $250,000 to buy out their partner in 2017 after he announced his divorce plans. A startup, and not in a position to get that much credit, the three had to personally guarantee the loans. They were able to repay the debt in a year and a half out of their profits.

The divorce was a learning experience for the partners. When they started, they hadn’t written what’s known as a buy-sell agreement that creates a process and sets a price for buying out a partner.

Florida Business Property Division

I have written about property division recently. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing businesses in divorce.

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

There are several factors to know whether a business interest is marital. First, you will need to look at the date of marriage and the date the business interest was acquired.

Additionally, you should look to the source of funds used to start the business, and also if there were money and labor contributions to the business given by either spouse during the marriage. In distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Whenever an agreement cannot be made between the spouses, the court’s distribution of marital assets or marital liabilities must be supported by factual findings and be based on competent evidence.

Once you have determined whether an interest in a business is marital, how do you actually determine what that interest is worth?

There are three approaches to value a business interest: (1) the asset approach; (2) the income approach; and (3) the market approach.  Each approach has inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Any valuation expert should consider all three approaches; however, it is often the case that all three approaches cannot be applied.

Back in business

The emotional fallout from a divorce can affect co-owners and employees. In his settlement with his wife, Jeffrey Deckman agreed to pay her $100,000 over four years; that amount was half what his telecommunications business was valued at.

Deckman borrowed money to make the payments, but having that debt hanging over him created stress that spilled over to his company.

“I started getting edgy, short-tempered, pushing hard for (sales) numbers that I never pushed so hard for before.”

He began fighting with his two business partners, and the discord affected everyone who worked there. It took six months for Deckman to realize what he was doing. “It showed me on a certain level that I hadn’t accepted responsibility for the deal I made,” he says.

But by the time Deckman understood that “I was making people pay,” he had damaged his relationship with his partners and staffers. In 2005, two years after the divorce, he realized that he needed to withdraw from working in the company, and in 2008 he sold his stake. Deckman, who now does consulting for small and mid-sized companies, believes despite losing his share of the business that he did the right thing in his divorce settlement.

He says of his ex-wife: “Today, years later, we are great friends and our children benefit greatly because of it.”

The Detroit News story is here.

 

The Art of Property Division

Developer Harry Macklowe and his wife, Linda, were ordered to split their “internationally renowned collection” of modern art from the likes of Andy Warhol and Alberto Giacometti in a property division case involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

property division

Who Needs Nine Marilyn Monroes?

A New York court in Manhattan ruled that the Macklowe art trove amassed during 59 years of marriage should be sold and the profits shared.

In a sign of the acrimony that fueled a prolonged legal dispute, the couple couldn’t agree on what the collection was worth — Harry’s expert said $788 million, while Linda’s said $625 million.

Their collection, which encompasses some 165 pieces of art, among them Andy Warhol’s Nine Marilyns which is estimated to be worth $50 million, Le Nez by Alberto Giacometti, worth up to $35 million, Jeff Koons Vest with Aqualung for $10-11 million, and Jackson Pollock, Number 17, valued at up to $35 million..

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about property division in Florida. 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.
  • intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets.
  • 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 start a property division. 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.

The Nose Knows

After a 14-week trial last year, the divorce judge determined in a 65-page opinion how to split all the assets held by the 81-year-old developer and his wife, who is on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Linda will get to keep $40 million in art but will have to pay half of that to Harry, she’ll get to keep their 14,000-square-foot apartment at the Plaza Hotel valued at $72 million but have to pay her estranged spouse $36 million for his share. Harry will retain ownership of $82 million in commercial real estate — including 737 Park Ave. — but pay Linda $41 million.

The couple will split the $62 million they have in cash, the judge said.

Linda Macklowe gets to keep another $40 million of art — including works by Koons and Picasso, but must pay Harry $20 million in credit, the judge said.

The couple were married Jan. 4, 1959, when he was a 21-year-old ad salesman for Parents Magazine and she was 20, working as a receptionist. They had no prenuptial agreement.

The Bloomberg article is here.

 

Divorce and Student Loans

According to a recent survey, borrowers with student loans have been found to take on more debt, are more likely to divorce, and that just holding student loans can be a contributing factor in some divorces.

divorce student loans

Recent Study

Money problems are usually an indicator of divorce. Since student debt can constitute a major financial strain, it can impact a marriage. This new survey underscores the importance of minimizing your debt.

The survey showed that:

  • The average Class of 2017 graduate walked away with a diploma and $39,400 in debt; and
  • The 2017 graduate’s debt represents a 6% increase from the previous year; and
  • Americans owe $1.48 trillion in loans.

It’s clearly taking a toll – not just on finances – but on marriages. This new survey reveals that these loans could increase your likelihood of getting divorced. According to a new study, 58% of divorcees with student loans took on debt to help pay for attorney fees and other related costs during their divorce proceedings. Compare that with 48% percent of all divorcees who borrowed money to pay for a divorce.

Couples with student loan debt are more likely to delay divorce because of cost. More than a third of respondents with student loans (35%) delayed their divorce because they couldn’t afford it, compared with 24% of couples without student debt.

Florida Divorce and Student Loans

I’ve written about equitable distribution and divorce debt before. While the initial premise behind an equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities is equal distribution, if there is a proper justification, a family court judge may make an unequal distribution.

As a general proposition, student loans incurred during the marriage are marital debts. And, unless there is a proper justification supporting an unequal distribution of student loans, they must be equitably distributed between the parties.

Sometimes people argue that a spouse won’t receive any benefit from the other spouse’s law school or medical school degree. However, the benefit of an education is not considered a factor the court should consider when allocating a marital debt for student loans.

Survey Says . . .

The survey also had some other sobering results:

  • 13% of respondents who had student loan debt going into their marriage claim that it eventually led to the end of their marriage.
  • Almost 7 in 10 divorcees have changed how they manage their money after their divorce.
  • 36% of borrowers with student loan report they lied to a partner about money.
  • Roughly one third respondents claimed a decreased sex drive because of their student loans.

Large debts and monthly payments can make it difficult to buy a home, save for retirement, or make it from paycheck to paycheck. Worse still, you’re probably stuck with your student loan whether you can afford it or not.

The Survey 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.

Reportedly:

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 Waste and Property Division

An English ex-husband has ‘come under fire’ after he admitted to burning down his marital home out of anger over his divorce. This sad event raises the issue of waste in divorce, and how courts can order an unequal property division when assets are destroyed.

Divorce Waste

‘Great Balls of Fire’

According to the Mirror, Paul Duffy appeared at Leicester Magistrates’ Court to admit to a charge of arson at his home in England. Emergency services were called to a ferocious blaze at his address in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The house is almost completely destroyed due to arson. An investigation into the blaze found 27 individual seats of fire, two jerry cans and evidence of flammable substances and petrol.

The fire caused an explosion at the property and the house next door was damaged, although no-one was inside the address. Duffy left, but later returned to the scene, where he gave himself up to police officers and was arrested.

In interview he made a full and frank admission of his role in starting the fire.

Florida Divorce Waste

In Florida divorces, courts distribute the marital assets and liabilities between the parties every day. Judges have to start with the premise that the distribution should be equal. But is there a way ‘to fight fire with fire’ if a spouse destroys marital property?

In Florida, courts are allowed to distribute property unequally if there is a justification for an unequal distribution. I’ve written about this concept of waste, and other aspects of property division before.

One of the relevant factors courts look to is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

There are many examples, besides arson, of spouses dissipating or wasting assets. Other instances of people ‘pouring gasoline on the fire’ include spending money buying a girlfriend jewelry or lingerie, gambling losses, and drug usage.

Some people get ‘fired up’ over their divorce, and would rather lose the money outright than split it with their spouses.  Where this kind of marital misconduct results in a waste of marital assets, it can serve as a basis for unequal division of marital property.

‘Burning down the house’, one of the largest assets in a marriage, would be a good reason to justify an unequal distribution of the property in divorce. It’s Florida’s way of saying: ‘if you play with fire you’re gonna get burnt.’

‘Fire Away’

According to reports in England, the husband had left the area after starting the fire but later returned to the scene, where he gave himself up to police officers and was arrested.

The house was not insured. The house was ruled to be unsafe and had to be demolished later that day. The husband is now facing jail. Clearly, the husband has jumped ‘out of the frying pan into the fire.’

The Mirror 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.