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Ramos v. Ramos

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

November 29, 2017

PAULA RAMOS, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, St. Lucie County; Sherwood Bauer, Jr., Judge; L.T. Case No. 562014DR000511.

          Chet E. Weinbaum, Fort Pierce, for appellant.

          No appearance for appellee.

          FORST, J.

         Appellant Gilbert Ramos ("Former Husband") appeals the trial court's final judgment of dissolution of marriage. He argues that the trial court committed several errors, including labeling his vending machine business and truck as marital assets for purposes of equitable distribution, incorrectly valuing his coin collection, and ordering him to obtain life insurance. We agree, in whole or in part, with each of Former Husband's arguments on appeal and accordingly reverse and remand for the trial court to take appropriate action consistent with this opinion.


         On February 28, 2014, Former Husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. He and appellee Paula Ramos ("Former Wife") married on December 3, 2000, making the marriage a little more than thirteen years old at the time of filing. In his petition, Former Husband requested equitable distribution, that Former Wife purchase life insurance for the benefit of their two minor children, and that she pay his attorney's fees. In particular, he argued that his vending machine business was exempt from equitable distribution because he had started the business prior to the marriage. In her response, Former Wife denied, among other things, that the vending machine business was exempt.

         At trial, the parties first discussed the vending machine business. Former Husband testified that he started the business ten years before the parties were married. Then, he testified that during the course of the marriage, the value of the business went "down. A lot down." Before he was married, he had "eighty plus machines, both snack and soda, " and that all but one or two of those machines were "making money." Former Wife did not disagree, and testified that the business had multiple machines across thirty locations. But then, Former Husband noted, the business had only "twenty-three machines, [at] seventeen locations" at the time of dissolution. Former Wife agreed that there were now only about twenty-three machines.

         The parties next discussed the value of a marital coin collection. Former Wife introduced a hand-written list previously made by Former Husband noting that he had about $36, 000 in coins. She explained he created the list around 2011. Former Wife also admitted some pictures she took of the coins during this period of time. Former Husband disputed that he ever had $36, 000 in coins. Regardless, he testified that their value at the time of filing the petition for dissolution was "about ten, twelve thousand dollars total, " and, at the time of trial, the value of the coins was "zero." Former Husband explained that, since 2014, he had to use the coins "to supplement and pay for house bills, " "buy[] my own food, pay[] electric, water, TV, phone, et cetera, " and buy a Dodge truck. The truck cost $9, 000. Former Wife disagreed that Former Husband spent the coins. Still, she noted she used them to buy an $800 cruise ticket.

         The trial court entered its final judgment of dissolution of marriage. The court equitably distributed the vending machine business, finding that it was marital "in that it comingled [sic] marital funds during the party's marriage." The court also equitably distributed the coin collection, finding that it was worth $36, 000: "18 boxes of quarters, each containing $2, 000. The Wife provided clear and convincing evidence that the boxes existed and that they contained the quarters. The Husband has removed the boxes for his benefit." Next, to protect its award of child support, the court ordered Former Husband to "obtain within 30 days of this order a life insurance policy in the amount of $25, 000.00, with the children listed as beneficiaries." The court further found that the Dodge truck was marital property, subject to equitable distribution.


         A. Equitable Distribution of the Vending Machine Business

         "The standard of review of a trial court's determination of equitable distribution is abuse of discretion. However, '[a] trial court's legal conclusion that an asset is marital or nonmarital is subject to de novo review.'" Berg v. Young, 175 So.3d 863, 867 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) (alteration ...

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