final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Edward A. Garrison, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Abigail Beebe of The Law Office of Abigail Beebe, P.A., West
Palm Beach, for appellant.
J. Koleos of Koleos Rosenberg McMahon P.L., Fort Lauderdale,
Keith Williams appeals from the denial of his motion for
enforcement and sanctions as to Appellee Penelope
Williams's failure to comply with a provision of their
marital settlement agreement. Although the trial court found
that Appellee had breached this provision, it denied the
motion for enforcement based on its misunderstanding that it
could not compel Appellee to comply with the term at issue.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
parties' marriage of twenty-five years was dissolved by a
final judgment of dissolution which incorporated their
marital settlement agreement. The relevant, contested
provision of the agreement is found in paragraph 8, which
discusses the equitable distribution of the marital home, and
provides in pertinent part that "[o]n or before June 1,
2017, the Wife shall make all reasonable efforts to
refinance this real property . . . ." (emphasis added).
of 2017, Appellant filed a motion to enforce Appellee's
compliance with paragraph 8, arguing that she had not made
"all reasonable efforts" to refinance prior to the
June 1st deadline. At the hearing on the motion, Appellee
acknowledged that she never applied to refinance the marital
home. The trial court found that she "made no effort
whatsoever to refinance," thus breaching paragraph 8.
However, the court stated that it did not have the authority
to compel Appellee's performance- "as equitable
distribution, the law is clear that that's not
enforceable by contempt"-and the motion to enforce was
marital settlement agreement is to be interpreted and is
construed under a de novo review. Reilly v. Reilly,
94 So.3d 693, 696 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). Florida law favors the
settlement of family law disputes and courts will enforce
them when possible. Spiegel v. H. Allen Holmes,
Inc., 834 So.2d 295, 297 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002).
court enters final judgment of dissolution and incorporates a
marriage settlement agreement by reference, the court retains
jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the final judgment and
settlement as necessary. Paulucci v. Gen. Dynamics
Corp., 842 So.2d 797, 803 (Fla. 2003). Florida Family
Law Rule 12.570 sets forth various methods to enforce a
judgment, including compelling performance of a specific act.
Id. This rule is limited by the Florida
Constitution's prohibition on jailing debtors. Art. I,
§11, Fla. Const.; see also Riley v. Riley, 509
So.2d 1366, 1369 (Fla. 5th DCA 1987) ("[C]ontempt power
is limited by [Florida's Constitution] and other
traditional limitations on the use of contempt powers where
there are alternative adequate legal remedies."
distribution of marital property is generally considered a
debt owed to a former spouse with any payments being
enforceable only as ordinary claims between a creditor and a
debtor. See Simpson v. Simpson, 68 So.3d 958, 961
(Fla. 4th DCA 2011); Burke v. Burke, 336 So.2d 1237,
1238 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976). However, when equitable
distribution requires the performance of an act, and not the
payment of money, the trial court can enforce the provision
through contempt without running afoul of our constitution.
See Burke, 336 So.2d at 1238 (affirming a portion of
the trial court's contempt order where the former husband
failed to execute and deliver certain documents which would
release the former wife's interest in a note and mortgage
and transfer certain securities to the former wife-acts not
involving the payment of money); Roth v. Roth, 973
So.2d 580, 592 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) (similar); Riley,
509 So.2d at 1369 (affirming contempt order premised on
former husband's failure to designate his former wife as
the primary beneficiary of a life insurance policy, as
required by the property settlement agreement).
to the instant case, paragraph 8 required Appellee to make
reasonable efforts to refinance the real property. She did
not. As in the cases cited in the preceding paragraph, there
was an agreement by one of the parties to perform an act.
This agreement ...