Divorce Property Division in Florida
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.
Understanding Equitable Distribution of Marital Property under Florida Law
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.
When the parties to a divorce cannot agree on the property settlement, Florida law requires that the judge make an “equitable distribution” of the marital property. An equitable distribution is one that the judge decides is fair to both parties, based on the arguments and evidence presented in court. The judge considers a variety of factors in deciding how to divide the property, including:
- Each spouse’s contributions to the family finances
- Each spouse’s contributions to maintaining the household
- The length of the marriage
- If one spouse contributed to the career or education of the other spouse
- Whether it is important to keep the family home in the hands of the parent with primary custody for the sake of the children
For example, if one spouse maintained the household and cared for the children, that may carry the weight of a financial contribution in a long-term marriage.
Another challenge that occasionally arises is if one spouse decides to hide assets from the other. Our firm is very adept at uncovering any assets to bring to the negotiating table as part of full disclosure.
Marital Property and Separate Property
Before the court can divide the marital property, it must decide what the marital property is. In general, all income and assets (and, importantly, all debts) acquired during the marriage by either spouse is marital property, while property a spouse had prior to marriage or after separation is separate property. There are many exceptions to this general rule, however, and separate property can become marital property (and vice versa) depending upon how it is treated by the spouses.
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.
If the assets in your household include stocks, business ownership interests, retirement accounts and other complicated assets, make sure you are represented by knowledgeable and experienced legal professionals who know their way around high net worth divorce cases. At Spencer Law, we understand how to navigate the technicalities of the law to make sure that all marital property is correctly identified as such. Furthermore, we have the skills and knowledge to argue for an accurate valuation of complicated assets, which is essential to an equitable distribution.
All of this can be outlined in a prenuptial agreement before the marriage to specify how assets will be divided in the case of a divorce. It can also be accomplished in the form of a will, a deed, or some other evidence to prove the intention of the deceased family member, in the case of inheritance.
Get Help with the Property Division in Your Pensacola Divorce
For sound advice and effective representation in the property division or other aspects of your Florida divorce, contact Spencer Law, P.A. at our offices in Pensacola and Sandestin. Regardless of the complexity of your property, you will find a knowledgeable and capable attorney ready to make sure you are well-represented in the property settlement in your divorce.
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