Miami-Dade Property Division Attorneys
Equitably Distributing Marital Property in Your Divorce
Property division is often a contentious subject in divorce. When emotions or the need to “get even” drive the proceedings, it is easy to get drawn into a legal battle that may drain resources and drag out the process.
At Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa, we are committed to resolving conflicts over the distribution of your marital estate without sacrificing your rightful share. Our goal is to help our clients retain their property while protecting them from their spouse’s debts. Our Miami-Dade property division lawyers bring decades of combined experience to your case, offering the compassionate yet results-driven representation you need to achieve a positive outcome.
Discuss your case with us today by calling (305) 853-9161 and scheduling an initial consultation.
Marital Property vs. Non-Marital Property
Before equitably distributing the marital estate, the court must first determine whether assets or liabilities are marital or non-marital. Non-marital property is not subject to division in divorce. This includes property that a spouse brought to the marriage (such as a house, a business, or pension funds) or assets or debts acquired in the name of one spouse during the marriage but unconnected to the marriage (such as an inheritance or personal injury award). Typically, each party is awarded their separate, non-marital property upon the dissolution of the marriage.
Marital property includes all assets (and debts) that were acquired or incurred during marriage as a result of marital labor or funds and all property or liabilities that are not otherwise determined to be non-marital. Typically, marital property is equitably divided upon the dissolution of a marriage. The starting point for equitable distribution is an equal division of the marital estate, although the court considers numerous factors when deciding whether there should be an unequal division of the estate.
Some of those factors include:
- 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
When Assets Are Both Marital & Non-Marital
Sometimes, assets contain both marital and non-marital components. The division of these assets becomes more complicated. If a non-marital asset increases in value during the marriage, there must be a determination as to whether that increase in value was “passive” (e.g. the result of market forces having nothing to do with either party’s efforts) or “active” (e.g. based on one of the spouse’s contributions of labor or funds to the growth of the asset). Marital assets include the enhancement in value and appreciation of non-marital assets resulting from the efforts of either party during the marriage or from the expenditure of marital funds.
For example, if one spouse owned a business at the time the parties were married and that business increased in value during the marriage as a result of one or both spouses working at the business, the increased value of the business will likely be deemed a marital asset subject to equitable distribution. Or, 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. Every asset requires a separate analysis to determine whether that asset will be deemed marital or non-marital by the court.
What If My Spouse Hides Assets?
During property division cases, spouses have a fiduciary duty to each other. Neither spouse can sell, tamper with, or destroy community or separate property while the divorce is ongoing without first notifying the court and their spouse.
Fiduciary duty exists to help ensure that each party represents their financial status to the court faithfully. During property division, both parties must present the court with a complete list of all the separate and marital assets they own.
Mishandling or underreporting property during a property division dispute could result in legal penalties for the offending party.
Unfortunately, despite the possibility of suffering legal penalties from doing so, some spouses still attempt to hide assets from their spouse or the court to obtain a more favorable outcome in their property division case. Some common ways individuals hide assets include:
- Buying certain assets, such as artwork, that the individual intends to hide and then sell post-divorce to recoup their losses;
- Withdrawing or providing "loans" to friends that they will then either repay or be repaid to deplete their separate assets while the divorce is ongoing;
- Channeling income such as business revenue through an employee or friend to mask how much money they're making;
- Underreporting the value of separate assets to the court or not reporting them at all.
If you believe your spouse is hiding assets from the court, speak with your attorney. Most attorneys have connections to third parties, such as forensic analysts, who can help you determine what assets are being hidden and file that evidence with the court to obtain the justice you deserve.
It's also worth noting that many liabilities people assume are separate property, such as credit card debt acquired by one party during the marriage, may actually be considered community property. Knowing how much debt your spouse has in advance is vital if you want to avoid being saddled with debt you didn't incur.
Consult with Our Experienced Property Division Attorneys in Miami-Dade County
At Orshan, Spann & Fernandez-Mesa, our divorce lawyers have extensive experience handling complex marital property division issues, especially for high net worth clients. We are ready to fight to ensure you receive your fair share.
We are also skilled at analyzing all asset issues such as those involving:
- Closely held businesses
- Professional practices
- Savings and financial accounts
- Pension and retirement funds
- Deferred compensation accounts
- Marital homes
- Real property
- Automobiles and boats
You can count on our property division lawyers in Miami-Dade to negotiate creative agreements – such as tradeoffs allowing one spouse to keep a particular asset – and to litigate disputes as needed.
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We strive to provide quality, thoughtful, timely service to each of our clients. We provide timely, detailed updates on your case and make ourselves available to answer and follow up on any questions you may have.
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Our team is well-respected and recognized throughout the Miami-Dade area. We're known for our precise, in-depth knowledge of the law and versatile, strategic approach to each client's case.