Hamlet v. Hamlet

Decision Date13 June 1991
Docket NumberNo. 75177,75177
Citation583 So.2d 654
PartiesKaren HAMLET, Petitioner, v. John E. HAMLET, Jr., Respondent. 583 So.2d 654, 16 Fla. L. Week. D441
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Marcia K. Lippincott of Marcia K. Lippincott, P.A., Orlando, for petitioner.

Thomas M. Ervin, Jr. and Margaret A. McCall of Ervin, Varn, Jacobs, Odom & Ervin, Tallahassee, and David U. Strawn, Orlando, for respondent.

OVERTON, Justice.

Karen Hamlet petitions this Court to review Hamlet v. Hamlet, 552 So.2d 210 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989), in which the Fifth District Court of Appeal held that it was error for a trial court to award permanent periodic alimony in circumstances where there was equitable distribution of substantial assets to both parties. We find conflict with Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197 (Fla.1980). 1 For the reasons expressed, we quash the decision of the Fifth District Court of Appeal and direct that the final judgment entered by the trial court be reinstated.

The Hamlets' marriage lasted approximately twenty-two years, the parties having been married on September 3, 1965, and separated in May of 1987. The record reflects that Karen Hamlet earned a college degree in business, but she did not pursue a business career after the marriage. Instead, she accepted the responsibility of running the household, raising the children, and participating in numerous civic activities. In the trial court proceeding, there was evidence that Mrs. Hamlet was having difficulty obtaining employment after the parties separated due to her lack of experience. The record also establishes that John Hamlet is a successful, self-employed businessman. He founded a computer software company which was subsequently purchased by a large insurance company, and he is regularly engaged in multiple stock transactions. His financial affidavit dated September 1, 1987, indicates an average monthly gross income of $41,136, and his March 31, 1988, affidavit indicates an average monthly gross income of $16,125. The parties had approximately $3,000,000 in assets for distribution, and each received in excess of $1,000,000 in marital assets as part of the equitable distribution in the final judgment.

The parties agreed to a summary hearing procedure instead of a traditional trial. Accordingly, each of the parties submitted evidence in the form of written proposals and arguments, followed by written rebuttals. Each party was then allowed to testify, after which counsel presented arguments to the court. The parties then submitted proposals to the court, which later entered its final judgment of dissolution of marriage.

The final judgment provided for the equitable distribution of the marital estate in paragraph 3, entitled "EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION." In subparagraph 3.A. it identified the specific marital property awarded to the wife. In subparagraph 3.B. it identified the specific marital property awarded to the husband. In subparagraph 3.C. it distributed specifically identified, jointly owned personal property. In subparagraph 3.D. it awarded the coin collection or $292,371 to the wife, at the election of the husband. In subparagraphs 3.E. and 3.F. it explained how these distributions would be implemented. Paragraph 4 was entitled "ALIMONY." Subparagraph 4.A. directed the husband to pay to the wife $4,000 per month as permanent periodic alimony, and subparagraph 4.B. directed the husband to pay, as alimony for one year, an amount necessary to take care of the wife's reasonable and necessary medical, hospital, and dental expenses. The judgment further provided that each of the parties would pay his or her own attorney's fees.

John Hamlet appealed only that part of the judgment awarding monthly alimony of $4,000 to Karen Hamlet. The district court reversed the alimony award and stated:

From the judgment entered below, it cannot be mathematically ascertained that the trial court equally divided those investments, since there were no specific findings in regard to the value of individual items. Since the trial court found that there was an equitable distribution of these properties, and that finding is not challenged on appeal by either party, we must accept it.

Hamlet, 552 So.2d at 211. The district court then concluded that the trial court had no authority to award permanent periodic alimony, stating:

From that point, it follows that it was error to award pure alimony to the wife in addition to the equitable distribution of the investment assets....

As argued in the husband's brief: "An award of alimony, where substantial assets have been equally divided between the two similarly situated spouses, giving them equal and complete ability to provide for their support, constitutes an abuse of discretion and must be reversed."

Id. (citations omitted). 2

In a dissent, Judge Sharp noted that "[t]he distribution of marital assets and an award of permanent periodic alimony, inter alia, as remedies in a dissolution proceeding, are parts of an overall scheme that should be reviewed 'not piecemeal but as a whole.' " Id. (Sharp, J., dissenting) (quoting Thompson v. Thompson, 546 So.2d 99, 100 (Fla. 4th DCA 1989)). The dissent also noted that the record could support the conclusion that the amount of marital assets awarded to the wife differed from that awarded to the husband, and, consequently, periodic alimony could be considered a counterbalance to that asset distribution.

There are two legal principles that must be considered in light of the district court decision. The first is the authority of the trial court to award permanent periodic alimony when there has been a substantial distribution of assets to the spouse receiving the alimony. The second is the requirement that an appellate court review the overall scheme of a property and alimony distribution when considering whether or not the trial court abused...

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48 cases
  • Straley v. Frank
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • December 31, 1992
    ...to financial and property awards in domestic relations cases. See, e.g., Bedell v. Bedell, 583 So.2d 1005 (Fla.1991); Hamlet v. Hamlet, 583 So.2d 654 (Fla.1991); Marcoux v. Marcoux, 464 So.2d 542 (Fla.1985); Walter v. Walter, 464 So.2d 538 (Fla.1985); Cason v. Cason, 592 So.2d 1277 (Fla. 5t......
  • Kennedy v. Kennedy
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • July 23, 1993
    ...the ability of a trial judge to award permanent alimony, contrary to the forceful directives this court has received in Hamlet v. Hamlet, 583 So.2d 654 (Fla.1991) and Walter v. Walter, 464 So.2d 538 (Fla.1985). Further, I think there is no basis to conclude that the trial judge abused his d......
  • Polley v. Polley, s. 91-1405
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 1991
    ...fees. Upon consideration of the final judgment as a whole, we conclude that the judgment is arbitrary and unreasonable. See Hamlet v. Hamlet, 583 So.2d 654 (Fla.1991). We address each award in First, we conclude that the trial court erred in failing to order the husband to pay child support......
  • O'Dell v. O'Dell
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • July 18, 1991
    ...award of rehabilitative alimony. However, each piece of a dissolution judgment is an interrelated part of the whole. See Hamlet v. Hamlet, 583 So.2d 654 (Fla. 1991); Noah v. Noah, 491 So.2d 1124, 1128 (Fla.1986); Diffenderfer v. Diffenderfer, 491 So.2d 265, 268 (Fla.1986). On remand, the tr......
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2 books & journal articles
  • Alimony and support
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Family Law and Practice - Volume 1
    • April 30, 2022
    ...at the time of the final hearing, such income could be treated either as income or as a marital asset, but not both); Hamlet v. Hamlet, 583 So. 2d 654 (Fla. 1991) (district court of appeals lacked authority to hold that trial judge abused its discretion in awarding wife permanent periodic a......
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    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Family Law and Practice - Volume 1
    • April 30, 2022
    ...of debt, then it has authority to make upward adjustment in spousal support in order to do justice and equity to her); Hamlet v. Hamlet, 583 So. 2d 654 (Fla. 1991) (trial court had authority to award permanent periodic alimony to wife while also awarding wife distribution of marital propert......

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