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Caputo v. Caputo, Dist. Court, SD FloriDA

In re: PAUL RICHARD CAPUTO, Appellant,
v.
CAMILE CAPUTO, Appellee.

Case No. 13-23542-CIV-ROSENBAUM ( click here for legal link )
United States District Court, S.D. Florida.
April 18, 2014.

 

OPINION AND ORDER

ROBIN S. ROSENBAUM, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the Brief of Appellant Paul Richard Caputo [ECF No. 8]. The Court has considered the brief, all supporting and opposing filings, and the record in this case. For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the Bankruptcy Court’s determination that the $180,350.00 owed by Debtor Paul Richard Caputo to his ex-wife Creditor Camile Caputo is in the nature of support or alimony and is therefore non-dischargeable.

BACKGROUND

On May 30, 2012, Appellant Debtor Paul Richard Caputo filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In re Caputo, No. 12-23166, ECF No. 1 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. May 30, 2012). Paul Caputo’s Chapter 13 Plan proposed that the $180,000.00 in “equitable distribution” that he owes his ex-wife, Appellee Creditor Camile Caputo, be discharged upon completion of the bankruptcy case. Caputo, No. 12-23166, ECF No. 12 at 1 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. June 12, 2012). But Camile Caputo objected to the classification of this debt as an equitable distribution and argued that it should, instead, be considered a domestic-support obligation that is non-dischargeable. SeeCaputo, No. 12-23166, ECF No. 117 at 2 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. June 13, 2013).

On June 13, 2013, after an evidentiary hearing, the Honorable A. Jay Cristol issued an Order finding the $180,350.00[1] owed to Camile Caputo to be in the nature of support or alimony and thus non-dischargeable. Id. at 4. Paul Caputo moved to reconsider this Order, but Judge Cristol denied the Motion to Reconsider. Caputo,No. 12-23166, ECF No. 133 (Bankr. S.D. Fla. July 18, 2013). Paul Caputo now appeals both the June 13, 2013, Order and the Order denying reconsideration of that Order to this Court. ECF No. 1.

Here, after a hearing, Judge Cristol made a number of findings that support the conclusion that the money Paul Caputo owed Camile Caputo was a domestic-support obligation:

a) Camile Caputo irrevocably waived alimony in the Marital Settlement Agreement in exchange for the $200,000.00 payment;

b) Camile Caputo gave up all rights in the marital home;

c) Camile Caputo was unemployed and had to seek assistance from family members to be able to pay expenses and rent a studio apartment;

d) Camile Caputo was induced to sign and become liable for a new equity line of credit mortgage on the marital home immediately prior to the divorce by Debtor in exchange for the $200,000 payment;

e) Debtor retained the marital home;

f) Debtor retained the majority of the refinancing proceeds for his personal use;

g) Debtor did not produce records or contradictory evidence relating to the payments made on the $200,000.00 settlement amount showing he paid more than $19,560 of this amount to Camile Caputo[;]

h) Debtor was an experienced business person who had worked both in real estate and the financial services industries;

i) Prior to signing the Marital Settlement Agreement, the parties executed a one page document stating that the $200,000 would be deemed lump sum alimony;

j) Prior to the divorce, Camile Caputo and Debtor lived comfortably, with live-in assistance, in a home worth no less than $550,000;

k) Camile Caputo was not represented by counsel at all relevant times.

ECF No. 1 at 3-4.

Debtor challenges the Bankrutpcy Court’s determination and points to Camile Caputo’s testimony in which she indicated that, under the marital settlement agreement, she specifically waived any right to alimony in exchange for the $200,000.00 payment, labeled an “equitable distribution.” ECF No. 8 at 4-6. But this testimony is evidence of only the “label used by the parties” and not the true nature of the payment. See Cummings, 244 F.3d at 1265. Significantly, Camile Caputo testified, with respect to the agreement,

“This was our agreement that I would get alimony and, even though he was calling it something else in our divorce agreement. I didn’t have a lawyer—he wouldn’t—I was completely dependent on my husband. I didn’t have legal advice to have someone tell me that alimony—the difference between alimony and equitable distribution, and because the money was coming from— my alimony was coming from equity from the house, it sounded like a very reasonable—it made sense to me.”

Paul Caputo also points to the testimony of Camile Caputo to challenge the Bankruptcy Court’s determination that Camile Caputo “was not represented by counsel at all relevant times.” ECF No. 8 at 5-6. Paul Caputo notes that Camile Caputo testified that she had legal representation in December 2012, when she signed an addendum to the marital settlement agreement. ECF No. 4 at 30:19-31:3. Even so, Camile Caputo testified that she did not have legal representation at the time of signing the original marital settlement agreement. ECF No. 4 at 15:23-16:7. Even if Camile Caputo obtained legal representation after the divorce, the Bankruptcy Court did not clearly err by determining that Camile Caputo lacked legal representation at all times relevant to the divorce proceedings. Accordingly, the Court affirms the Bankruptcy Court’s Order.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the Bankruptcy Court’s Order Overruling Debtor’s Objection to Claim No. 2 Filed by Camile Caputo and the Order Denying Debtor’s Motion to Reconsider the Memorandum Decision Opinion (D.E. 117) are both AFFIRMED. The Clerk of Court shall CLOSE this case. All pending motions are DENIED as MOOT.

DONE and ORDERED

[1] Paul Caputo is obliged to pay Camile Caputo $200,000.00 under the marital settlement agreement, of which Paul Caputo has already paid $19,650.00.

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