MICHAEL LARRY STURMS, Former Husband, CONTINENTAL FINANCIAL SERVICES, LLC, WORLDWIDE FINANCIALS, LLC, and CONTINENTAL DEVELOPMENT, LLC, Appellants,
CATHERINE ELIZABETH STURMS, Former Wife, Appellee.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Elizabeth A.
Rebecca Bowen Creed of Creed & Gowdy, P.A., Jacksonville,
Michael J. Korn of Korn & Zehmer, P.A., Jacksonville and
S. Denise Watson of the Law Office of Denise Watson,
Jacksonville, for Appellee.
Larry Sturms ("Husband") appeals the trial
court's final judgment of dissolution of his marriage to
Catherine Elizabeth Sturms ("Wife"), raising four
issues. We find merit in his arguments that the trial court
erred in including the value of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type as
both a stand-alone asset and in the adjusted cash amount, and
in its allocation of assets owned by Continental Financial
Services, LLC ("Financial Services"), in devising
the equitable distribution scheme. We reverse the final
judgment and remand for the trial court to correct the
equitable distribution schedule consistent with this opinion.
In all other respects, we affirm the final judgment.
filed the petition for dissolution in March 2013, after
almost fourteen years of marriage. Husband is the sole
shareholder and owner of three companies: Worldwide
Financials, LLC ("Worldwide"); Continental
Development, LLC ("Development"); and Crude Oil
& Gas, Inc. ("Crude Oil"). Financial Services
is a partnership between William Pierce and Worldwide, a
company wholly owned by Husband. Wife asked the trial court
to designate the property and assets held by Worldwide,
Development, Crude Oil, and Financial Services as marital.
parties owned various properties, vehicles, and businesses
they acquired during the marriage. Husband disputes the
equitable distribution of Crude Oil's assets, including
the 2014 Jaguar F-Type and the assets of Financial Services,
due to his status as a fifty-percent shareholder. The
equitable distribution schedule incorporated into the final
judgment assigned to Husband an adjusted cash amount of $776,
752. The value of adjusted cash included $578, 000 earned by
Crude Oil. In addition to the adjusted cash amount, the 2014
Jaguar F-Type, purchased with Crude Oil funds, was credited
against Husband in the amount of $75, 750. The equitable
distribution assigned to Wife the Tortuga Lot and the
Ameritrade Account, which are assets of Financial Services.
Oil as Marital Asset
contends that the trial court erred in valuing Crude Oil as a
marital asset when calculating the adjusted cash amount.
"We review a trial court's characterization of an
asset as marital or nonmarital de novo and any factual
findings necessary to make this legal conclusion for
competent, substantial evidence." Dravis v.
Dravis, 170 So.3d 849, 852 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015) (citing
Tradler v. Tradler, 100 So.3d 735, 738 (Fla. 2d DCA
Alleged Commingling of Crude Oil Funds into Marital
argues that the value of Crude Oil, and its primary asset,
the drilling rights, is premarital because he acquired the
business and drilling rights long before the parties married.
"Nonmarital assets may lose their nonmarital character
and become marital assets where, as here, they have been
commingled with marital assets." Id. (citing
Abdnour v. Abdnour, 19 So.3d 357, 364 (Fla. 2d DCA
2009)). "Money is fungible, and once commingled it loses
its separate character." Pfrengle v. Pfrengle,
976 So.2d 1134, 1136 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) (citing Belmont
v. Belmont, 761 So.2d 406, 408 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000)). When
nonmarital funds are commingled with marital funds, the
nonmarital funds become marital funds and therefore are
subject to equitable distribution. See Heinrich v.
Heinrich, 609 So.2d 94 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992) (holding that
funds from nonmarital sources are treated as marital funds
for the purposes of equitable distribution when they are
placed in a trust along with a family checking account in
which the husband deposits his income).
Husband is correct that Crude Oil's primary asset, the
deep-oil drilling rights, originated as a nonmarital asset,
the record evidence supports the trial court's factual
finding that the proceeds from the sale of the drilling
rights were commingled when Crude Oil funds were loaned to
Development, causing them to lose their nonmarital character,
despite the eventual return of the funds to a Crude Oil
account. The earnings of Crude Oil are therefore marital
assets. Thus, the trial court correctly assigned to Husband
the $578, 000 earned by Crude Oil in the adjusted cash