Because there’s no federal law dictating how assets are to be divided in the event of a divorce, every state has its own laws. As an equitable distribution state, assets and debts are divided based on fairness rather than equality. This means that assets are not necessarily divided in a perfect “50/50” split.
Asset Division According to Florida Law
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
When it comes to asset division, one of the most important factors to consider is whether an asset is marital or non-marital property.
- Marital Property: Marital assets include anything that the couple accumulated or purchased during their marriage. Common marital assets include family and vacation homes, cars, boats, bank accounts, and home furnishings.
- Non-marital Property: Non-marital assets would typically be anything one party owned before the marriage. Though not always, inheritance is often considered non-marital property, even if it is received by one spouse during the marriage.
How is Debt Divided?
Most debts acquired during the marriage are also subject to equitable distribution. This includes credit card debt, mortgages, and car loans, just to name a few. It’s important to note that even if a credit card is in only one spouse’s name, the debt they acquire will still be divided among both parties.
However, there are instances in which one spouse may be solely responsible for a debt. If, for example, one spouse opened a credit card in secret and accumulated an extensive amount of debt, the court may declare that to be non-marital property.
Are Student Loans Included in Traditional Debt?
As members of the millennial generation begin filing for divorce, issues surrounding student debt have become a popular topic of conversation. In some cases, student loan debts can be more than a couple’s mortgage payments, so it’s common for people to be concerned about how this will be divided.
Generally, student loan debt incurred during the marriage is a marital liability and subject to equitable distribution. However, student loans taken out before the marriage may be considered non-marital property.
The Consequences of Hiding Assets
In the event of a divorce, both parties have a responsibility to honestly disclose all of their assets. During the property division process, each party is expected to submit a complete list of the marital and non-marital assets they own. However, some people choose to try and hide assets from their partners and the court.
Family law takes asset division cases very seriously which is why lying or misrepresenting your assets is illegal. If you’re found to be hiding property, income, savings, or any other assets, you could face serious penalties, including being found in contempt of court, being charged with perjury, or being charged with fraud. You may also be required to pay the other party’s fees and bills.
Asset Division Through Litigation
Through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services, such as mediation or arbitration, couples can have more control over the asset division process and their divorce as a whole. However, if both parties can’t come to an agreement, Florida family courts will step in and determine how assets should be divided.
When considering how assets are to be distributed, judges look at dozens of factors. The most common are:
- How long the couple was married;
- Each spouse's income and economic circumstances;
- An interruption in either spouse's career or educational opportunities;
- Each spouse's contributions to the marriage;
- If one spouse contributed to the career or educational advances of the other spouse;
- Any wrongful conduct during the marriage;
- If either spouse intentionally misused funds or marital assets within two years of filing for divorce.
Are you considering filing for divorce and unsure of how your assets will be divided? Our Coral Gables divorce attorneys can help you protect you and your family during this difficult time. Call us today at (305) 853-9161 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation with our team.