Howerton v. Howerton

Decision Date24 July 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-1171,85-1171
Citation11 Fla. L. Weekly 1622,491 So.2d 614
Parties11 Fla. L. Weekly 1622 Kenneth Paul HOWERTON, Appellant, v. Carolyn Sue HOWERTON, Appellee.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Charles R. Trulock, Jr., Orlando, for appellant.

Hugo H. de Beaubien, of Drage, de Beaubien, Malbrath & Simmons, Orlando, for appellee.

UPCHURCH, Chief Judge.

Kenneth Howerton appeals a final judgment of dissolution challenging the award to his former wife of a fifty percent interest in his pension plan on the basis that a pension is not a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. The husband also argues that even if his pension is a marital asset, the award was erroneous as it allows the wife to share in benefits acquired after the dissolution of the marriage. Finally, the husband argues that the court erred in ordering him to contribute to the wife's attorney's fees. We affirm the award of attorney's fees and the interest in the husband's pension, but remand to the trial court to value the husband's retirement benefits acquired during the marriage.

The parties were married in 1963 and have two children. At the time of the trial, the wife was working at a fast-food restaurant where there was little likelihood for advancement. The husband has worked for Southern Bell for over nineteen years as a cable repair technician and has a vested pension. A copy of the husband's statement of benefits for early and normal retirement was admitted at trial. In the final judgment of dissolution, the wife was awarded "her special equity of 50% in the Husband's pension at Southern Bell at such time as he retires from the company including any lump sum benefits."

As an initial matter, we note that the wife was awarded an interest in the pension plan as a "special equity." The term "special equity" was created to describe a vested interest in property brought into the marriage or acquired during the marriage because of contribution of services or funds over and above normal marital duties. Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197 (Fla.1980). Here, the wife does not appear to have made any such special contribution. However, the term "special equity" has also been used to justify an award of lump sum alimony and when used in this context, it concerns only whether the equities of the case justify such an award. Id. We believe that the court below simply meant that the equities of this case justified the award of an interest in the pension plan as equitable distribution of a marital asset. See Tronconi v. Tronconi, 466 So.2d 203 (Fla.1985).

In Diffenderfer v. Diffenderfer, 491 So.2d 265 (Fla.1986), the Florida Supreme Court recently held that a spouse's entitlement to pension or retirement benefits must be considered a marital asset for purposes of equitably distributing marital property. While noting that reduction to present value might best place the benefits in proper perspective for such purposes the court expressly declined to impose any rigid rules and left the doing of equity to the trial court. The trial court's scheme of distribution, of course, remains subject to appellate review under the "reasonableness" standard set forth in Canakaris.

The supreme court also observed that various methods of valuing potential future rights have been adopted:

The most preferable approach involves a reduction to present value factoring in the contingencies of vesting, maturity, and the pensioner's mortality. (Citation omitted.) Other courts have reserved jurisdiction over the parties and ordered a percentage pay-out upon the pension's maturity. While this method assuages the...

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21 cases
  • Waldman v. Waldman
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • February 16, 1988
    ...(premarital value of pension plan must be excluded from equitable distribution to avoid awarding wife a windfall); Howerton v. Howerton, 491 So.2d 614 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986) (equitable distribution of 50% of husband's pension to wife did not entitle her to share in pension benefits acquired af......
  • Bain v. Bain, 89-451
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • January 4, 1990
    ...933 (Fla. 3d DCA), review denied, 538 So.2d 1255 (Fla.1988); Trant v. Trant, 522 So.2d 72, 73 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988); Howerton v. Howerton, 491 So.2d 614, 615 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986). Finally, the trial court should consider all the relevant factors listed in section 61.075(1), Florida Statutes In ......
  • Boyett v. Boyett
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • December 13, 1996
    ...933 (Fla. 3d DCA), rev. denied, 538 So.2d 1255 (Fla.1988); Trant v. Trant, 522 So.2d 72, 73 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988); Howerton v. Howerton, 491 So.2d 614, 615 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986) (stating that it is improper to permit the former wife to share in the benefits acquired after the dissolution of the ......
  • Wright v. Wright
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • March 1, 1990 pay acquired by the former husband since dissolution. See Irwin v. Irwin, 539 So.2d 1177 (Fla. 5th DCA 1989); Howerton v. Howerton, 491 So.2d 614, 615 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986); cf. Stebbins v. Stebbins, 435 So.2d 383, 385 (Fla. 5th DCA 1983). The principal ground asserted in the former wife's......
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