How Do Assets Get Divided in a Divorce?
If you are going through a divorce in Florida or thinking about it, you might have questions about the division of assets and liabilities. Like most things related to divorce, it may be possible for the parties to come to an agreement regarding the division of marital assets, but this doesn’t always happen.
Divorce can be emotional and sometimes messy. If you can’t agree on this matter, a judge will step in to divide your assets for you, so it’s best to try to come to an agreement the best you can. However, this might be the outcome of your divorce, so before you get to this point, it’s helpful to understand how Florida law will treat these assets.
Is Florida a Community Property State?
There are only nine U.S. states that are still classified as community property states, and Florida isn’t one of them. If it were, all assets acquired and earned during the marriage are equally owned by the two spouses, even if only one spouse was generating income.
Instead, Florida is an “equitable ownership” state. This means that property earned or acquired during the marriage belongs to the spouse that earned or purchased it. So, asset distribution during divorce will not necessarily split everything down the middle. Depending on a variety of factors, it is possible for one or another spouse to walk away with two-thirds or more of the marital assets.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Assets in Florida
Before the courts can equitably divide your marital assets, they must first categorize them between marital and non-marital assets. It may seem as if all assets brought into the marriage are non-marital assets, but this isn’t always the case. When some assets are commingled, their status changes.
When non-marital property, such as a house or land, is later titled jointly, it becomes a marital asset. If one spouse comes into the marriage with a large bank account and then adds the other spouse to the account, it becomes a marital asset. Some of the other guidelines that the courts will use include:
- All assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage, whether by one spouse or both, are considered marital assets.
- Assets or liabilities acquired before the marriage, as long as they are not commingled during the marriage, are non-marital assets.
- Gifts given between spouses during the marriage are marital assets.
- A non-marital asset that appreciates in value during the marriage partially becomes marital property.
- Retirement funds, pensions, annuities, insurance plans, and deferred compensation will become, at least in part, a marital asset.
- Income that results from a non-marital asset would be considered non-marital property unless the income was treated as marital property.
- Any valid written agreement that excludes certain property as being marital assets will be honored by the court.
Valuing and Dividing Marital Assets
After it has been determined which assets go into which categories, a value will be placed on each item. This might require hiring an appraiser, CPA, or both. The courts will then decide about the division of assets and liabilities between you and your spouse. Some of the factors that might play a role in this decision include:
- How long you were married;
- The economic circumstances of each spouse;
- The debts that are attributed to each spouse;
- Whether a child is going to continue living in the marital home;
- Whether one spouse cut short a career or education to further the other’s career or take care of children;
- The contributions of each spouse to the marital assets, as a wage earner, and a parent;
- If any martial assets were intentionally hidden or destroyed with the intent to divorce or deprive the other spouse of assets; and
- Any difficulties associated with dividing a certain asset, such as a business, home, or vacation condo.
How a Florida Property Division Attorney Can Help
Going through a divorce is difficult enough. When you are going through this process, you are probably overwhelmed and have many questions about your financial future.
At Spencer Law, P.A., our experienced Florida divorce attorneys can thoroughly and clearly explain your rights and options. We will also take the necessary steps to protect your right to hold onto your property and receive the settlement you deserve.
We serve clients throughout the Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach area. Contact us now at 850-912-8080 or reach us online to schedule an initial consultation.