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Wells v. Wells

Florida Court of Appeals, Second District

February 14, 2018

ROSE MARIE WELLS, as Personal Representative of the Estate of John Scott Wells, Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
SANDRA WELLS, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Pinellas County; Keith Meyer, Judge.

          Jane H. Grossman, St. Petersburg, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Gregory T. Elliott of Elliott-Berger, P.A., Largo, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

          MORRIS, Judge.

         Rose Marie Wells-as the personal representative (PR) of the estate of her deceased husband, John Scott Wells-appeals an order on her amended motion to enforce the final judgment of dissolution of marriage between her deceased husband and his former wife. The former wife cross-appeals. We reverse the order because the trial court erred in its interpretation of the marital settlement agreement that was incorporated into the final judgment of dissolution.

         John Scott Wells, the former husband, and Sandra Wells, the former wife, divorced in 2001. The final judgment of dissolution incorporated a marital settlement agreement that contained a provision giving the former wife sole possession of a piece of marital property until the parties' daughter finished four years of college:

REAL PROPERTY: The parties own the home located at 306 22nd Avenue N.E., St. Petersburg, FL, a marital asset titled in the Wife's name. There is no mortgage on this property. The Wife shall have exclusive use and possession of the home through the daughter's minority and college years (4 years post high school). The Husband shall contribute 50% to taxes, insurance, and necessary repairs greater than $500. Upon sale of the home by the Wife, the Husband shall be entitled to 50% of the net proceeds.

         The former husband died in 2014. After his death, the PR sought to enforce the final judgment of dissolution, claiming that the former wife was required to sell the property and give the former husband's estate fifty percent of the proceeds since the former wife and former husband's daughter had finished college. The former wife responded that the provision did not require her to sell the home. She also argued that the agreement was not enforceable because the former husband had breached the marital settlement agreement by failing to abide by its terms since 2007 and/or that the parties had abandoned the agreement.

         After a hearing, the trial court denied the PR's motion in part, concluding that the agreement did not require the former wife to sell the property. The trial court stated the following:

Parties are free to contract as they choose. By the unambiguous and clear terms of the contract[, ] the [former wife] was granted exclusive use and possession of the marital home while the child was in college. Thereafter, if the home was sold by [the former wife], the [former husband] was entitled to half of the proceeds. To date, the home has not been sold by the [former wife]. There is no legal basis for the court to deem the express timing of the [the former wife's] contract to be illusory. The [c]ontract will be enforced pursuant to its plain language.

         However, the trial court determined that when the former wife does sell the property, the former husband's estate has a remedy:

The [PR] shall be entitled to seek payment of the Final Judgment if the subject residence is sold by the [former wife] at a time when the [PR] still time [sic] to make such a claim. [The PR] is further granted as to the property that is the subject of this [m]otion in the amount equal to "fifty percent of the net proceeds" if [the former wife] ever sells the property.

         On appeal, the PR argues that the provision clearly requires the sale of the property after the daughter has graduated college and that the trial court's interpretation of the provision is unreasonable because it ignores the obvious intent of ...


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