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Hellard v. Siegmeister

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

October 23, 2019

Joyce D. Hellard, Appellant,
v.
William I. Siegmeister, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, Judge. Lower Tribunal Nos. 16-20239 & 17-12323

          Karen J. Haas, for appellant.

          Davis Smith & Jean, LLC, Sonja A. Jean and Laura Davis Smith, for appellee.

          Before FERNANDEZ, LINDSEY and HENDON [1] , JJ.

          FERNANDEZ, J.

         Joyce D. Hellard, the wife, appeals the trial court's Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and Order Granting Husband's Motion for Summary Judgment. Following a review of the record, we affirm the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage as to that portion of the judgment that dissolves the marriage, finds that the Marital Settlement Agreement was binding on the parties, and awards the marital home to the wife. However, we reverse the Final Judgment with respect to the equitable distribution award made by the trial court regarding other real property titled in each party's name. As to the trial court's Order Granting Husband's Motion for Summary Judgment, we affirm that portion that equitably distributed the parties' marital debts and assets that existed as of the date the Marital Settlement Agreement was entered in 2001. However, with respect to marital assets the parties acquired after they reconciled in 2001, when the Marital Settlement Agreement was no longer in effect, we reverse the equitable distribution award, as it did not address any after-acquired property, namely, the South Miami condominium and non-retirement investment accounts at issue. We affirm without further discussion regarding all other issues.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The husband, William I. Siegmeister, and wife were married on December 27, 1997, in Miami-Dade County, Florida. There were no children of the marriage, but the parties had assets and income. Both parties are retired Miami-Dade County teachers, but the husband is also a licensed insurance agent. The wife owns a premarital house located at 8083 S.W. 158th Court, Miami, Florida, where the parties resided during their marriage. The husband owns a premarital house located at 7712 Altamira Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida, which is the principal place of business for Siegmeister Insurance Company, of which the husband was the Chief Financial Officer until after the wife filed for divorce, and where the husband's two sons from a previous marriage resided during most of the parties' marriage.

         In late 2000, the parties briefly separated for a few weeks, and the wife filed for divorce. The parties subsequently signed a Marital Settlement Agreement ("MSA") on January 11, 2001, that was predicated upon the parties living separately. Upon the husband's diagnosis of colon cancer, however, the parties reconciled, and the wife voluntarily dismissed the petition for dissolution of marriage. The husband alleges there is a dispute as to when and to what extent the parties reconciled. The wife claims that the parties continued living together as husband and wife in the wife's premarital home for fifteen-and-a-half years until they separated on July 11, 2016.

         On August 22, 2016, the wife filed a Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage that sought equitable distribution of the marital assets and debts, an award of her non-marital and pre-marital assets, appreciation of premarital property and stocks/investments to the extent that marital funds and labor were expended, alimony, and attorneys' fees. Thereafter, the husband filed a Response and Counter-Petition on September 14, 2016, seeking equitable distribution of all marital assets, appreciation of premarital property and investments to the extent of expenditure of marital funds and labor, alimony, and attorney's fees. The husband also alleged the existence of a prenuptial agreement ("PA") dated December 26, 1997, and an MSA dated January 12, 2001, although he did not attach the agreements to his pleading. In the wife's Amended Answer to Counter-Petition, she raised affirmative defenses, including waiver or abandonment by the husband of any alleged PA. The wife also denied that the MSA survived after the parties reconciled and that it did not determine the rights of the parties.

         On May 15, 2017, the husband alleged for the first time that the PA controlled all financial issues between the parties and submitted a copy of the PA in his Answer to Amended Verified Petition for Dissolution of Marriage; Amended Counterpetition for Dissolution of Marriage. He claimed that the wife had the only original of the parties' PA but did not mention the MSA.

         Thereafter, on July 27, 2017, the husband filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Request for Entry of Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, claiming for the first time that the parties lived separately in their respective homes and that the MSA controlled. He also filed a copy of the MSA. On August 17, 2017, the wife filed her Response in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment as to the Marital Settlement Agreement where she alleged that nowhere in the husband's Amended Counterpetition did he mention the MSA, but instead he claimed that the PA controlled. She argued that the husband waived the MSA defense as he never pled it nor did he attach it to his Answer or Amended Counterpetition. She also claimed that the husband falsely and without affidavit claimed that the parties lived separate and apart, when in actuality they lived together after they reconciled until they separated in July 2016. She attached the affidavits of three of their neighbors supporting her position. She claimed that the parties' reconciliation voided the MSA, citing to Cox v. Cox, 659 So.2d 1051 (Fla. 1995).

         On August 17, 2017, the wife filed her Response in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment as to the Marital Settlement Agreement, as well as her Verified Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings/To Strike as Sham Prenuptial Agreement Defense, claiming that the PA was a fraud and not applicable. She claimed the husband waived or abandoned the PA because he failed to attach it, provide grounds on how it applied and by requesting relief contradictory to the PA. She also claimed the PA was subject to novation by operation of the merge clause in the 2001 MSA. Less than two days before the hearing, the husband ...


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