appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. Dawn
L. Sweeting and Jerry L. Rumph, Jr., of Sweeting & Rumph,
P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellant.
L. Novey, Christin F. Gonzalez, and Jerome M. Novey of
Novey᪉垳, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
Malinda Plexico Bradner challenges an order granting summary
judgment in favor of her former husband, Bryan Jacob Bradner,
terminating his alimony obligation based on a finding that
she had entered a supportive relationship. Because the trial
courts conclusion is based on disputed facts, we reverse and
remand for further proceedings.
the terms of the final judgment dissolving the parties
marriage, Mr. Bradner had to pay Ms. Bradner $1,500 a month
in alimony for thirty-five months beginning April 1, 2017.
The final judgment called for the termination of alimony upon
Ms. Bradners "entry into a supportive relationship as
defined by statute."
Bradner subsequently moved to terminate alimony alleging that
Ms. Bradner had entered a supportive relationship— as
defined by section 61.14(1)(b), Florida Statutes— with
Rob Smith, the owner of Concept Construction Group, a company
where Ms. Bradner works. Mr. Bradner alleged that Ms. Bradner
and Mr. Smith were holding themselves out as husband and
wife, cohabitating, commingling their finances, and
supporting each others children. In support of his motion
for summary judgment, Mr. Bradner relied upon deposition
testimony of Ms. Bradner and Mr. Smith, as well as a
residential "Lease with Purchase Option" between
Mr. Smith as landlord and Ms. Bradner as tenant. The lease
set a three-year term, starting in May 2017, during which
time Ms. Bradner had to pay rental payments of $1,116.50 per
month. The lease also gave Ms. Bradner the exclusive option
to buy the property and included a provision allowing her to
improve or upgrade the property, upon written consent, and
receive a credit in the form of a deposit towards the agreed
upon sales price for the amount of the approved alterations.
summary judgment evidence showed that Ms. Bradner and Mr.
Smith lived together in the residence, along with their
respective children when they each had visitation. The
children each had their own room, while Ms. Bradner and Mr.
Smith shared a bedroom. Ms. Bradner and Mr. Smith took trips
together and ate together. Ms. Bradner, Mr. Smith, and their
respective children shared responsibility for the household
chores. Ms. Bradner worked for Mr. Smiths company as a
project manager and was paid a salary.
The company paid for her health insurance, but she reimbursed
the company for the policy. Ms. Bradner and Mr. Smith did not
have any joint financial accounts and they did not have
access to each others personal accounts. Ms. Bradner
contributed $75,000 to $80,000 for renovations of the
residence to accommodate room for her children without
receiving written consent in the hope that the money would be
credited towards her eventual down payment.
the reason for the lease agreement, Ms. Bradner testified
that she tried to buy the house outright from Mr. Smith but
could not get financing. She said she entered the lease so at
the end of its term she could obtain financing to purchase
the house. Mr. Smith testified that he bought the residence
with the intent to fix it up and sell it. When asked what the
business purpose of the lease was, he said: "to
facilitate a lease-purchase." Mr. Smith stated his
company had entered similar leases in the past. He testified
that he did not know what accounts Ms. Bradners payments
went into, how much credit she had accrued towards the
purchase price, or whether he claimed the rental payments as
income on his tax returns, but he explained that his
accountant took care of such matters.
trial court entered an Amended Order Granting Motion for
Summary Judgment, finding that the undisputed facts showed
there was a supportive relationship between Ms. Bradner and