final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower
Tribunal No. 15-10845, John Schlesinger, Judge.
Goodman P.A., and Ilene F. Tuckfield, for appellant.
A. Fernandez; Matthew E. Ladd, for appellee.
SALTER,  FERNANDEZ, and LINDSEY, JJ.
Jorge Alfonso Fernandez ("Fernandez") appeals a
final judgmentof partition
entered following a non-jury trial. For the reasons set forth
below, we affirm.
and Romena Marrero ("Marrero") began dating in
January of 2013. They moved in together in June 2013.
Thereafter, in December 2013, the parties moved into a house
("the property") that they ultimately purchased.
The parties were permitted to move in prior to the closing
because Fernandez knew the owner. During this time, Fernandez
made several repairs and improvements to the property,
including, but not limited to, lawn care and the replacement
of a fence. The closing took place on March 25, 2014.
Fernandez paid the down payment and closing costs. The
parties purchased and titled the property as joint tenants
with rights of survivorship.
the closing, Fernandez has paid all the mortgage payments
without contribution from Marrero. After the closing,
Fernandez incurred expenses to repair the property, to reduce
the principal balance of the mortgage, and to pay for taxes
and insurance. The parties ended their relationship on or
about March 10, 2015- less than one year after the closing.
Marrero moved out shortly thereafter and filed the underlying
action. In her one count complaint, Marrero sought partition
of the property.
Fernandez conceded that Marrero was entitled to partition,
Fernandez argued that he should receive credit for the down
payment and closing costs, as well as expenses that he
incurred before and after the closing. In support of his
claim, Fernandez contends that he only purchased the property
with Marrero as joint tenants with rights of survivorship
because his credit score was not high enough for him to
qualify for a loan on his own. In furtherance of this theory,
Fernandez testified that Marrero had agreed to sign over her
interest in the property after the first year of ownership.
Thereafter, it was his intention to refinance the loan on his
own. Fernandez further testified that the only reason he
chose to title the home as a joint tenancy with rights of
survivorship was because he did not want the property to
escheat to the state upon his death. In his view, the
purchase of the property was a business transaction and not a
product of his relationship with Marrero.
on the other hand, testified that they purchased the property
because they had plans to start a family and that Fernandez
never asked her to sign any kind of contract or promissory
note that would support his position that the purchase of the
property was merely a business transaction.
Lopez ("Lopez"), the title/closing agent, also
testified at the trial. Lopez testified that, prior to the
closing, she explained to Fernandez that he and Marrero could
take title as joint tenants with right of survivorship or as
tenants in common. She further explained the differences
between the two tenancies, as well as the implications of
taking title as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.
Specifically, she explained that upon Fernandez's death,
his half would automatically go to the other joint tenant-in
this case, Marrero. By contrast, she explained that if they
acquired the property as tenants in common, Fernandez's
heirs would inherit his half upon his death. Lopez testified
that, following her explanation, Fernandez elected to take
title as joint tenants with a right of survivorship.
day-long bench trial the trial court made its findings,
focusing on the following three categories: (1) down payment
and closing costs; (2) pre-closing expenses; and (3)
post-closing expenses. The trial court concluded that
Fernandez was not entitled to any credits for the down
payment and closing costs. The trial court also declined to
award Fernandez a credit/reimbursement for pre-closing
expenditures. However, following O'Donnell v.
Marks, 823 So.2d 197, 199 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002), the trial
court ordered Marrero to reimburse Fernandez ...