576 So.2d 267 (Fla. 1991), 74419, Thompson v. Thompson

Docket Nº:74419.
Citation:576 So.2d 267
Opinion Judge:Author: Mcdonald
Party Name:William deForest THOMPSON, Petitioner, v. Tobitha THOMPSON, Respondent.
Attorney:Edna L. Caruso of Edna L. Caruso, P.A., West Palm Beach, Florida, and Joel L. Kirschbaum of Esler & Kirschbaum, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Petitioner.
Case Date:January 10, 1991
Court:Supreme Court of Florida

Page 267

576 So.2d 267 (Fla. 1991)

William deForest THOMPSON, Petitioner,


Tobitha THOMPSON, Respondent.

No. 74419.

Supreme Court of Florida.

January 10, 1991

Rehearing Denied March 26, 1991.

Page 268

Edna L. Caruso of Edna L. Caruso, P.A., West Palm Beach, and Joel L. Kirschbaum of Esler & Kirschbaum, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for petitioner.

Jane Kreusler-Walsh of Klein & Walsh, P.A., Law Offices of Ronald Sales, P.A., West Palm Beach, and Deborah Marks of the Law Offices of Greene & Marks, P.A., Miami, for respondent.

A. Matthew Miller of Miller, Schwartz & Miller, P.A., Hollywood, amicus curiae for American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Florida Chapter.

Deborah Marks of Greene & Marks, P.A., Miami, amicus curiae for The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar.

McDONALD, Justice.

We review Thompson v. Thompson, 546 So.2d 99, 100 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989), in which the district court certified the following question as one of great public importance:

In marriage dissolution proceedings to which an owner of a professional association is a party, may the value of the professional association's goodwill be factored in in determining the professional association's value?

We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. We answer the certified question with a qualified affirmative.

After twenty-three years of marriage, the Thompsons received a divorce in April 1987. The wife supported the husband while he finished college and attended law school and, subsequently, maintained their home and raised their children. The husband is currently a plaintiff's attorney specializing in personal injury and medical malpractice and is the sole shareholder of a professional association. The trial court awarded the wife permanent periodic alimony, lump sum alimony to be paid over ten years, child support, and other real and personal property. The district court, concluding "that a reasonable person could have created the economic scheme employed by the trial court in this case" and that the trial court correctly applied the principles of Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197 (Fla.1980), affirmed the entire award. 546 So.2d at 100.

On appeal the husband argued that the trial court improperly included professional goodwill in the distribution. The district court stated: "There is no compelling reason to conclude that the trial court factored in the value of the husband's professional association's goodwill in making the property distribution." Id. Because the issue had been raised, however, the court certified the above-stated question regarding professional goodwill.

Marital property should be divided in an equitable manner. See Canakaris. Typically, a nonprofessional spouse's efforts increase the professional spouse's earning capacity. Equity justifies higher alimony in such circumstances. If marriage is viewed as an economic partnership, and assets are created or obtained during the marriage, it is only equitable to distribute them fairly. The results of paid efforts in the workplace and unpaid efforts at home should be pooled because both economic and noneconomic contributions to a marriage have value. In theory, therefore, if it exists and if it was developed during the marriage, professional goodwill is a marital asset which should be included in the marital estate upon dissolution.

This Court has defined goodwill as the advantage or benefit a business has beyond the value of its property and capital. Swann v. Mitchell, 435 So.2d 797 (Fla.1983). In discussing goodwill in Swann we noted that it has been held...

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