Florida Record

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Florida Supreme Court determines properties in divorce dispute had interspousal gift intent

By Tricia Erickson | Apr 19, 2017

Florida Supreme Court chamber in Tallahassee | Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court recently reinstated a trial court's ruling in a divorce case that properties in dispute were interspousal gifts after it ruled an appeal court applied improper standard of review.

In its opinion in Hooker v Hooker, the court examined how the couple used the properties. 

The high court ruled the correct standard of evidence is “competent and substantial evidence” to determine interspousal gifts in a marriage dissolution.

Timothy and Nancy Hooker were married 1987 and had prenuptial agreements that said each would retain premarital properties in the event the couple divorced. Nancy Hooker filed for divorce in 2010, and two properties became in dispute as to whether they were marital assets subject to equitable distribution even though the title to the properties did not list the wife. However, Nancy Hooker argued that Timothy Hooker had donative intent because the properties were used for residence.

The trial court’s ruling said the properties “were and should be considered joint marital assets of the Husband and Wife in equitable distribution by this Court, the way they were considered joint marital assets by the parties as they lived and raised a family in these ‘assets.’”

The trial court reasoned that Timothy Hooker had other property and assets that he treated differently than the two properties involved in the dispute and therefore he had donative intent with the properties.

In its opinion, the Florida Supreme Court said that the 4th District Court of Appeals was incorrect for using the “preponderance of the evidence” standard to examine evidence.

The Supreme Court said that the trial court was accurate in using “competent and substantial evidence” to determine interspousal gifts in a marriage dissolution.

“In this case, we conclude that such evidence existed to support the trial judge’s conclusion that both properties at issue were marital assets under section 61.075, Florida Statutes,” according to the opinion.

Because both properties in the dispute were ruled as marital properties, they therefore should distributed equitably.

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