Courtroom dramas and television shows have skewed people’s views of divorce, leaving many couples surprised at their own circumstances. A topic that we often see misconstrued is the division of marital property.
How do courts decide which spouse gets what? Do courts distribute equitably? Avoid being blindsided by understanding how marital property is divided in Florida divorce cases. Below, our attorneys at Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa explain the key pieces you need to know about Florida’s specific laws.
Marital Property Division in a Florida Divorce Case
Each state has its laws on how marital property is divided in a divorce. Florida operates under the laws of equitable distribution, which means the court will fairly divide marital assets.
Before courts can determine an equitable division of property, they must first determine which assets are considered marital and which are non-marital.
Non-marital assets, property one spouse owned before the marriage, acquired as a gift, or obtained by inheritance, are not subject to division. On the other hand, marital assets include all assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage, including money, property, retirement accounts, and more.
Of course, these circumstances are not always so black and white. When assets are both marital and non-marital, the division of assets becomes more complex. For example, if one spouse provided a down payment for a house before the marriage but both parties contributed to the monthly mortgage and paid for improvements to the property during the marriage, the enhanced value of the property may be deemed a marital asset.
Many couples are thrown off guard in situations like these because they assume that what they brought into a marriage will remain theirs. For this reason, it’s crucial to hire an attorney who has extensive experience handling complex marital property division issues.
How is Property Divided?
Sometimes, spouses come to an agreement on the division of property on their own or with the help of a mediator. Typically, as long as the agreement is in writing and each spouse has consulted an independent attorney, the court will uphold it. However, we understand that it’s challenging for many couples to reach an agreeable decision. In that case, a judge will make a decision.
It’s important to remember that equitable division does not mean everything is split 50/50. Instead, there are a number of factors courts take into consideration when determining what is fair for each spouse, such as the following:
- Each party’s contributions to the marriage, including childcare and homemaking
- Each party’s income and economic status
- How long the marriage lasted
- Either spouse’s contributions to the other’s career or education
- The value of keeping a certain asset – such as an interest in a business or professional practice – free from interference by the other spouse
- Child custody orders and how they impact who should retain the marital home for dependent children
- Whether either party intentionally depleted or wasted a marital asset before or after the divorce petition was filed
We’re Here to Help
At Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa, we understand how difficult the divorce process can be, from dealing with heightened emotions to the legal complexities. Our attorneys are here to assist you during this time by taking some of the burdens off of you. We have more than 60 years of combined experience representing clients dealing with the most convoluted asset situations and coming up with creative solutions. Our priority is to help our clients retain their property while protecting them from their spouse’s debts.