Property Division/Equitable Distribution
In a Florida divorce, “marital property,” also known as “matrimonial assets,” will be equitably divided between you and your spouse when your marriage is dissolved. Despite the presumption that “equitable” means “equal,” there are situations where a distribution favoring one party over the other may actually be fairer. Under equitable distribution, you will end up with a post-divorce estate of similar value to your spouse’s rather than a joint owner of each asset.
Determining Nonmarital Assets
First, the court will determine if there are any nonmarital assets involved. These are:
• Assets gained and liabilities acquired and incurred by either party before marriage, as well as anything gained or lost in exchange.
• Separate assets acquired by gift (noninterspousal only), bequest, descent or devise.
• All income resulting from nonmarital assets during the marriage (unless the income was used as a marital asset)
• Assets and liabilities excluded by valid written agreement of the parties, and any acquired or incurred as a result.
Determining The Value Of Marital Assets
Second, the court will determine the marital assets and liabilities. These are:
• Assets and liabilities acquired or incurred during the marriage, either individually or jointly.
• The increased value of nonmarital assets as a result of the efforts of either party during the marriage and/or as a result of the use of marital funds/other types of marital assets
• Gifts received between spouses during the marriage.
• All benefits, rights, and funds (vested and no vested)
• Accrued during the marriage through:
• Insurance plans/programs
• Deferred compensation.
• All real property held by the parties as tenants, whether acquired before or during the marriage, is presumed to be a marital asset.
Unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution, the court then is faced with the valuation of marital assets and the ultimate distribution of those assets and liabilities. The court must make factual findings based on substantial evidence with reference to the factors listed above. The distribution process can be broken down into the following steps:
• A cutoff date is set that the court will use to classify assets and liabilities. Those acquired or incurred before the cutoff date are considered marital, and those acquired or incurred after are considered nonmarital.
• Marital assets and liabilities will be classified and valued.
• The valued marital assets and liabilities will be distributed evenly among both parties unless the court deems unequal distribution is justified.
In divorces involving business ownership or significantly high assets, an experienced valuation expert should oversee marital property division.
Consult With Us
Before undertaking a divorce, seeking the advice of an experienced family law attorney who is skilled in the divorce process is essential in order to protect your assets.