The Florida Supreme Court, on March 30, 2017, issued an opinion in Hooker v. Hooker, 220 So.3d 397 (Fla. 2017) finding a Florida horse farm and a New York summer home interspousal gifts and, therefore, subject to equitable distribution as marital property despite a prenuptial agreement in existence. The prenuptial agreement provided that, upon divorce, each party would retain his or her premarital assets and any appreciation of those assets. Both parties had independent sources of income from family inheritances and they maintained separate finances throughout the marriage. The parties were married for 23 years.
The Florida horse farm, “Hickstead,” was purchased in 1989 and the Hickstead deed listed “Alice I. Hooker Trust FBO, for the benefit of, Timothy I. Hooker” as the grantee. Husband and Wife signed the mortgage on Hickstead. When Hickstead was purchased, it was vacant land and it later became through the course of the marriage a working horse farm with 16 stalls, etc. and the marital home in one wing upstairs and the other wing was the staff apartment. Wife was “extremely and directly involved in all aspects of the Hickstead residence which was the family’s primary home for approximately 20 years,” according to the findings of the trial court. Wife was not limited or restricted in any way from incurring the costs and expenses of maintaining and operating a family home at Hickstead, from the Husband’s assets. Wife was provided unfettered access to the stables and horses to pursue her lifelong passion.
The New York summer home, “Lake George,” was purchased in 1997 and was titled only in the Husband’s name and only Husband signed the mortgage. It was purchased, built and maintained as a summer residence for the family. The Husband paid the expenses for Lake George with his independent funds and Wife was never a signatory on that account and never had access to that account. However, the Husband sent Wife a card for their tenth wedding anniversary with a picture of the property after the Wife had expressed a desire to have a home up north and both parties searched for a suitable property.