The case of Morrison v. Smolarick, No. 2D20-2693, is a decision made by the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District in 2022. It deals with the issue of partition, which is a legal process by which co-owners of property can seek to divide the property or, if it cannot be divided, to sell the property and divide the proceeds among the co-owners.
In this case, the parties, Megan Leigh Morrison and Timothy D. Smolarick, were co-owners of a home as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. Mr. Smolarick filed a complaint for partition and asked the court to order a private sale of the property and hold the proceeds in escrow pending a judicial determination of the interests of the parties to the proceeds. The court ordered the sale of the property and appointed a special master to effectuate the sale. The court also ordered each party to pay half of any fees required by the special master.
However, the property sold at a price below the amount owed on the mortgage resulting in zero net profit from the sale. Thus, there were no funds to be deposited into the registry of the court and divided among the parties. Despite the fact that there were no funds left to be divided, Mr. Smolarick noticed the case for trial and filed witness and exhibit lists in anticipation of a trial at which the court could determine the amount of reimbursable expenses he was entitled to recover.
Ms. Morrison argued that a trial was unnecessary because there were no funds to distribute and that because Mr. Smolarick’s complaint only sought partition, he was not entitled to a money judgment reimbursing him for the expenses. However, the trial court went forward with the trial and entered a money judgment in favor of Mr. Smolarick in an amount representing reimbursable expenses Mr. Smolarick paid when the parties were co-owners.
On appeal, Ms. Morrison argued that neither chapter 64 of the Florida Statutes nor the case law applying it authorize entry of a money judgment where only partition is sought and the partition sale resulted in zero proceeds. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Second District, agreed with Ms. Morrison and reversed the final money judgment entered against her. The court held that the Florida statute and case law do not authorize entry of a money judgment where only partition is sought and the partition sale resulted in zero proceeds.
As a result, the court reversed the final money judgment entered in favor of Mr. Smolarick and remanded the case for the trial court to vacate that judgment. This means that the final money judgement was cancelled and the case was sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.
This case serves as a reminder for Floridians dealing with partition that it is crucial to understand the basics of the process and your rights as a co-owner. It is also important to be prepared for the possibility of a sale, as the court may order a sale of the property if it is indivisible. Additionally, it is important to note that a partition action only allows for the division of the property or the proceeds from its sale, and it does not authorize entry of money judgments for reimbursement of expenses incurred while the parties were co-owners.
As a Floridian, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to go through the process of partition in order to divide a property among co-owners. Partition is a legal process that can be used to divide real property when there are multiple owners who cannot agree on how to divide the property or use it. In this blog post, we will provide some tips for Floridians dealing with partition.
THE BASICS OF A FLORIDA PARTITION:
The first step in dealing with partition is to understand the basics of the process. Partition is a legal process by which co-owners of property can seek to divide the property or, if it cannot be divided, to sell the property and divide the proceeds among the co-owners. In Florida, partition is governed by chapter 64 of the Florida Statutes.
YOU ARE ENTITLED TO FORCE A SALE IN FLORIDA
As a co-owner of a property, you have the right to file a complaint for partition. This means that you can initiate the partition process and ask the court to divide the property or order a sale of the property and divide the proceeds among the co-owners. It is important to note that partition is a matter of right, which means that any co-owner can initiate the process.
GET PREPARED FOR THE SALE
When dealing with partition, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility that the court may order a sale of the property if it is indivisible. This means that the property will be sold, and the proceeds will be divided among the co-owners. It is important to understand that partition is not always a straightforward process, and it’s essential to be prepared for different outcomes. This might include obtaining an appraisal, hiring a real estate agent, or working with a special master to manage the sale of the property. Additionally, it is important to have a clear understanding of the financial implications of a sale.
If you are dealing with a partition case you need experienced legal representation. Our office litigates partition cases throughout the state of Florida. We can help you through the process and get you the reimbursements you deserve. Give us a call, we are here to help, we offer no obligation consultations.
Brice Zoecklein, Esq.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog/website is for informational purposes only and provides general information about the law but not specific advice. This information should not be used as a substitute for advice from competent legal counsel as laws change and the facts in your specific case need to be analyzed.