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Witt v. Witt

Florida Court of Appeal, Second District

November 18, 2011

Paul WITT, Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
Tonya A. WITT, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Page 1128

Tarya A. Tribble of Tribble Law Center, P.A., Riverview, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

Marina R. Taylor of Marina Taylor, P.A., Riverview, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

KHOUZAM, Judge.

Paul Witt, the Former Husband, and Tonya A. Witt, the Former Wife, timely appeal and cross-appeal the final judgment of dissolution of marriage. Because the equitable distribution scheme created in the final judgment is unclear, we reverse and remand for the trial court to appropriately delineate its equitable distribution scheme. On remand, the trial court shall

Page 1129

also make statutorily required findings regarding alimony.

The parties in this case were married on August 17, 2002, and the dissolution of marriage action was filed on November 21, 2005. The final hearing was held on May 6, 2009. The parties stipulated to some facts while others remained in dispute. The appellate record does not contain a transcript of this hearing, though it does contain exhibits introduced at the hearing as well as the final judgment. In the final judgment, the circuit court made findings regarding the equitable distribution of property and debts.

This court reviews the circuit court's findings regarding equitable distribution for an abuse of discretion. See Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197, 1202-03 (Fla.1980). Section 61.075, Florida Statutes (2005), governs the distribution of marital assets and liabilities. Subsection (1) requires the court to set apart each spouse's nonmarital assets and liabilities and then distribute the marital assets and liabilities with the presumption that the distribution be equal. That section also provides various factors that the court may take into account when justifying an unequal distribution. Subsection (3) provides that in any contested dissolution action, regardless of whether the distribution is equal or unequal, the court must make specific written findings to show that the distribution is supported by competent, substantial evidence. The findings must reference the factors listed in subsection (1) as well as subsection (3) of the statute. A final judgment which fails to include the statutory requirements is difficult to review and requires reversal. Prest v. Tracy, 749 So.2d 538, 539 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000).

While a trial court has broad discretion to fashion an equitable distribution scheme, it must support its distribution with specific factual findings. See ยง 61.075(1), Fla. Stat.; Prest, 749 So.2d at 539-40; see also Santiago v. Santiago, 51 So.3d 637, 638 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011). Here, the circuit court did not make specific findings regarding several issues. First, the court took testimony and found that the parties' contingent tax liability amounted to $100,000 without assigning this liability to either of the parties. Second, the court did not include the parties' stipulation regarding the value of the premarital portion of business assets or make clear findings regarding the remaining assets about which the parties disagreed. Regrettably, the final judgment did not delineate the equitable distribution scheme to show what property the court found to be marital, what property it found to be nonmarital, and which party should receive each item as required by section 61.075(1). We must, therefore, reverse the final judgment distributing the parties' marital assets. On remand, the trial court shall make specific findings that support the equitable distribution scheme. Prest, 749 So.2d at 539-40.

On remand, the trial court also must make factual findings regarding its denial of alimony as required by section 61.08, Florida Statutes (2011). At the time the final judgment in this case was entered, section 61.08 read as follows:

(2) In determining a proper award of alimony or maintenance, the court shall consider all relevant economic factors, including but not limited to:
(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition ...

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