Divorce and Debt Division: Legal Strategies for Managing Marital Liabilities
Equitable distribution. Remember that phrase.
Unlike a community property state where assets are divided 50/50, in Florida, when a couple decides to divorce, expect the “equitable distribution” doctrine to apply in the division of both assets and liabilities.
Divorcing your spouse can be a stressful time. You and your spouse have decided to end your partnership. But you will be better prepared if you understand the legal strategies for managing your divorce and marital liabilities.
Crystal Collins Spencer has decades of experience helping couples end their marriages, even when there are complicated circumstances.
You only get one chance to dissolve this marriage equitably, and you want to make sure you explore every avenue available as early as you can. Talk to Crystal Collins Spencer to explore your options.
When a couple marries at a young age, they often do not start their marriage with assets. The bank accounts, pensions, and bonuses come later; if one is savings-minded, they accrue over time.
These are considered marital assets. Unless a premarital agreement states otherwise, these assets, whether bank accounts, property, or other valuables, are subject to equitable distribution upon divorce.
Assets acquired before the marriage are not subject to distribution, nor is an inheritance or gift. An exception may come when the individually-owned assets acquired pre-marriage or an estate is comingled with other accounts that are marital assets.
The Florida court will consider each spouse’s earnings and earning potential, each person’s contribution to the marriage, how long they were married, and the number of minor children.
Also, it important to consider is how much one person sacrificed career-wise to care for children or follow the other’s job or education requirements.
Liabilities include debt from a credit card, a student loan, a mortgage, or taking out loans on other assets. When it comes to liabilities, the following must be considered:
- Maybe you saved all of your life. Your spouse spent everything he made and then some. If you are still married, the court expects you to pay the credit card bill, even if your name is not on the credit card.
- The exception to this may be if one spouse wasted assets, spent without your knowledge, or gifted money to a third party. A forensic expert will investigate financial records to ascertain an accurate picture of who ran up the debt and for what purpose. Suppose the investigation reveals that your spouse acted recklessly, siphoning off marital assets for his purpose or hiding them from you and your attorney. In that case, you will be able to challenge whether they are your joint responsibility.
- Occasionally, one spouse is losing money through a gambling or drug habit or due to his involvement in illegal behavior. Florida law allows you to go to a judge and obtain an injunction to stop the spouse from wasting marital assets.
Manage Your Marital Liabilities
Debt in divorce can be accrued before the marriage, during the marriage, and there can be non-marital debt. Determining that will help determine who is responsible for paying.
Prenuptial Agreement – One strategy may involve getting a prenuptial agreement before you marry. The agreement will allow each person to specify what assets they expect to own or continue to own in case of a divorce.
Postnuptial Agreement – After marriage, the couple may decide to get a postnuptial agreement to divide assets before a divorce. If the relationship is contentious, a postnup may be challenging to obtain. If it is not contentious, a postnuptial may ease any stress about ownership of material assets going forward.
Separate Property – A business or individual property can continue to be owned separately if you do not co-mingle it. Once that happens, the court may consider it a marital asset. Neither party must sell or gift anything as the marriage is being divided since this will raise suspicion with the court.
Your Florida Family Law Attorney
Managing debt and liabilities in a Florida divorce can be particularly challenging. At this time, it’s vital to be transparent with your attorney. The discovery process is intended to reveal the assets and liabilities within the marriage.
Keep documents in an organized manner for easy access. Only with an accurate picture of the marital assets can they be fairly divided.
Crystal Collins Spencer has spent decades representing individuals who are facing a divorce in Florida. She can be reached in her Pensacola office at (850) 795-4910 to schedule an appointment.