Husband appealed circuit court order awarding wife 80% of marital assets actually in the possession of the parties at the time of the divorce. Husband made four major claims. First, husband claimed the court erred in not awarding him his non-marital assets and holding that he had failed to meet his burden of proving those assets were non-marital. Husband produced some documentation with regards to the non-marital assets. The circuit court, however, found that he selectively produced documents and claimed not to be able to produce other documents. CA opined that this was not clearly erroneous and also upheld the circuit court’s finding that husband’s expert witness’ testimony was flawed. The expert did not attempt to do a traditional tracing. Instead, she used an approximate growth rate, the parties’ joint tax returns, depositions of each party, and interviews with husband to produce a forensic tracing. According to the CA, she testified that, “by taking the income during the marriage and subtracting out the estimated yearly living expenses during the years of marriage, a percentage of non-marital to marital assets could be determined.” She then used the calculated percentage to determine marital and non-marital interest in stock purchased during the marriage. CA found this tracing method unsatisfactory and held that if husband failed to receive all of his non-marital property it was because he failed to meet his burden of proof.
Second, husband claimed it was error to find that he had dissipated marital assets. Husband gave two million dollars to his sister, brother-in-law, and accountant. Husband claimed he had always given monetary gifts and this was not dissipation. CA, however, found that husband was aware that there was a real possibility divorce was eminent and that he never informed wife of the gifts. Additionally, husband did not report the gifts on his gift tax return until after discovery. There was substantial evidence that husband tried to hide the gifts from wife.
Third, husband claimed the family court erred in dividing the property. Husband claimed wife was unsupportive and did not contribute to the marital home. Husband also claimed error in the family court finding that he had an interest in a Florida condominium. CA opined that the family court was in the best position to judge the evidence as to both of these facts and would not find the lower courts holding to be clearly erroneous.
Finally, husband claimed the family court failed to credit him monies paid to wife during litigation. CA found that this too did not constitute error. CA opined that they might have divided the martial assets differently. Regardless, they did not find the trial court abused its discretion in dividing the assets.
Digested by Linda Dixon Bullock, Diana L. Skaggs + Associates