Appeals Court Splits Personal Funds Held in Joint Account in Florida Divorce
Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) August 8, 2014 – A Florida woman’s recent divorce taught her a tough lesson in commingling of assets.
In the context of family law, “commingling of assets” is the act of combining a non-marital asset with a marital asset. The asset that couples most often commingle is cash. That is exactly what happened in the case of Sorgen v. Sorgen, which was recently decided by Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals (DCA). Attorney O. Reginald Osenton, who is not involved with the case, explained how the case illustrates the legal ideas behind it.
“Mrs. Sorgen and her sisters inherited their parents’ home, and when the house was sold, she deposited the money into the joint bank account she and her husband held,” Osenton said. “When her husband filed for divorce, she took the funds back and held them in her separate account, as she considered the money hers.”
The trial court agreed, and ruled that the funds were non-marital property belonging to the wife. But on appeal, the fourth DCA overturned that ruling. The court held that when the wife put the money into the joint account, she created a presumption that the husband had an undivided one-half interest in the funds. Absent any evidence to rebut that presumption, the funds were a marital asset to be split equally.
“Opinions on cases like this tend to vary widely,” Osenton went on. “After all, the trial court and appeals court disagreed. But it shows just how careful people should be about commingling assets. If there is any doubt as to whether certain funds belong to an individual or a couple, it is better to take the cautious route and keep the money in one’s own account.”