Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets in Florida Divorce
During a marriage, it is common for couples to acquire property with little to no concern about property settlement in divorce. For example, when you go shopping for a couch with your spouse, you do not sign an agreement stating that, if you get divorced, you get to keep the couch, but your spouse gets the throw pillows. These issues are much more complex and technical.
It is common for people to accumulate large amounts of personal property during the marriage with no plans for its equitable distribution (should the marriage end in divorce). Further, the parties may have unequal contributions into these pieces of property. For example, the husband may buy, store, maintain and use a fishing boat with little to no input from the wife. Conversely, the wife may have taken an abundance of time to accumulate jewelry, often at her own expense. Distributing marital assets in divorce can be an overall tedious process, but with the help of an experienced Sarasota, FL, family law attorney, you can rest assured that your assets and property will be distributed equitably.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Property
Florida laws recognize equitable distribution in divorce. According to Florida Statute 61.075:
“The court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors …”
In other words, unless there is a legal document preventing equal distribution of marital assets in divorce, such as a prenuptial agreement, couples are legally owed an even distribution of property.
All assets that are accumulated during the marriage by either party are usually considered “marital” in nature. This means that they are subject to division by the court during the divorce. Property division exceptions to this rule include inherited assets, or other pre-marital assets that have increased in value passively, or by market appreciation alone, (not through the efforts of either spouse). Examples include stock portfolios, to which nothing has been added during the marriage, or an inheritance that has been left in a separate account accumulating interest for the duration of the marriage.
For most property that people gather during the marriage, the two former spouses must decide who gets what, and in exchange of what. The dissolution of marriage resembles a swap meet, whereby the goal for both spouses to leave the marriage on equal footing in regards to the division of assets. Our divorce lawyers can help you determine between marital and non-marital assets and debts.
Who Is Responsible for Marital Debts?
An often overlooked portion of the distribution by many Sarasota and Bradenton divorce attorneys is the concept of distribution of marital debts. The concern is that all debt accumulated by the parties during the marriage is also marital, meaning it should be divided equally. Like the boat and jewelry example above, it’s fairly common for one party to be responsible for the majority of certain debts. A spouse with a penchant for shopping comes to mind, and often the other spouse is surprised to learn of a $20,000-$30,000 credit card bill upon the filing of the parties’ financial affidavits. Without the application of the factors for unequal distribution, the court is going to order the parties to divide this debt equally.
As aforementioned, the court will also equally divide the boat (bought and paid for by the husband through a side-job on the weekends), or the wife’s new car (purchased with funds from her Etsy shop that she runs all by herself).
This can be unfair, however, when considering debt accumulation. If debt is acquired on the sole benefit of one spouse’s entertainment, like a husband’s endless fishing trips, or a wife’s weekly trips to the salon, he/she should be solely responsible for that particular debt. An experienced divorce attorney can help you understand debt accumulation and what you should (or should not) be held responsible for.
Factors in Determining Assets & Debts
The Florida legislature recognizes the unfairness in these types of situations. Below is a list of factors that the court considers when determining if an asset or debt should belong to just one party, or if it should be divided in one party’s favor. Before filing for divorce, consult with an equitable distribution lawyer.
The factors are listed below, and a discussion follows:
- The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
- The economic circumstances of the parties.
- The duration of the marriage.
- Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.
- The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
- The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
- The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Planning for Distribution of Assets & Debts in a Divorce
The goals for the distribution of assets and debts in divorce are unique to each marriage. No matter how intense you feel your divorce may be, experienced divorce lawyers at Tobaygo Law in Sarasota can assist you. Our attorneys have numerous years of experience in litigation and mediation of family law matters. We will ensure that your property is divided equitably, and that you are fully equipped to return to a sense of normalcy.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation.