What happens when one spouse comes to the marriage with a nonmarital asset, and then that asset increases in value? Does it become a marital asset?
The court in Herrera v. Herrera, 895 So.2s 1171, answered this question. In the Herrera case, the Husband owned a home prior to the parties' marriage. This home is justly classified as the Husband's marital asset. However, during the marriage, the Husband used marital funds to pay down the mortgage on the home, and add a den to the property.
The court ruled that the increase in value of the Husband's marital home due to the pay down of the loan obligations on the home, and the passive increase in the home's fair market value that both served to increase the value of the home was marital, and therefore subject to equitable distribution in the parties' divorce.
This case has an additional twist, in that the trial court ordered that the Wife would have the Husband's nonmarital home after the family law case was over, so that she could raise the parties' children there. The appellate court ruled that this was in error, as there were no findings that transferring ownership of the Husband's nonmarital property to the Wife was necessary due to the Husband's inability to pay child support.