April 18, 2012

Law Office of Robin Bresky Obtains Reversal Where The Trial Court Excluded Stocks As Marital Income, Failed To Identify Marital Property In Jamaica, and Abused Its Discretion In The Parenting Plan

Preudhomme v. Bailey
Case No. 4D10-3262

Our firm challenged the trial court’s final judgment on behalf of a former wife claiming that the lower court erred in dividing the assets, calculating income of the husband, awarding an inadequate amount of alimony, calculating child support payable by the wife, and including overly restrictive parenting provisions. The case involved a highly contentious divorce of a sixteen year marriage involving three minor children. Although the former wife had a CPA license, she stayed at home with the minor children. The former husband traded and managed properties.

In the final judgment, the lower court commented that much of the evidence was conflicting and the facts were disputed. The court then divided the various assets and awarded sole parental responsibility with the father. In addition, the court significantly prohibited the former wife from petitioning for modification of the parenting plan unless she completed: (1) fifty-two weeks of individual psychological therapy; (2) another twenty-six weeks of joint psychological therapy with the children; (3) five additional sessions on child discipline; and (4) two eight-week sessions in parental effectiveness training.

On Appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The Appellate Court determined that the lower court erred in calculating stock due to the wife based upon the lower court’s failure to make factual findings as to whether the initial stock was purchased or a gift. Furthermore, the lower court’s findings regarding numerous bonus shares of stock were not supported by competent substantial evidence.

The Court also found that the lower court erred by refusing to determine whether real property owned by the former husband in Jamaica was marital or non-marital property. Specifically, section 61.075(3)(a) and (b), Florida Statutes, requires the court to make clear identification of marital and non-marital assets. Therefore, the lower court could not refuse to address the property in Jamaica, as it did here.

Finally, the Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in parts of the parenting plan as there was no competent substantial evidence to support the specific type and length of therapy ordered by the court for the former wife. Furthermore, there was no evidence to support the specific time restrictions on the former wife’s ability to petition for modification of the parenting plan which severely impacted her ability to parent her children. Thus, the lower court could not arbitrarily determine that the therapy must last a specific time before the former wife could request to spend more time with her children.