The state of Florida utilizes the doctrine of equitable distribution when dividing marital property (property acquired during a marriage with funds or labor) in a divorce. This means that a judge will seek to divide the divorcing couple’s property in a fair and equitable manner. Many people assume that assets are divided equally among the divorcing parties. But equitable distribution does not mean property is split 50/50. Below we detail four important things divorcing couples should know about Florida property division.
“Equitable” Does Not Necessarily Mean “Equal” The most important thing to remember about the term “equitable distribution” is that it will not always result in an equal split. While most courts will attempt to make the division of property as equal as possible, a judge may determine that it would be fair to split the property in an uneven manner, granting more to one spouse than the other. There is a wide variety of circumstances that could factor into such a decision, so always keep in mind that equitable does not necessarily mean equal.
Marital vs. Nonmarital Property The division of your property will be significantly impacted by determinations made on what qualifies as marital property and what qualifies as separate, nonmarital property. Nonmarital assets are generally those that were obtained prior to the marriage, or inherited after the marriage. In most cases, property obtained during the marriage will be considered marital property. Only marital property will be divided between the two spouses. Nonmarital property will be kept by whichever spouse is considered the owner.
Marital and nonmarital property can be mixed together—sometimes called “commingling.” Some couples combine their separate assets intentionally; others do so without thinking about it. A premarital bank account belonging to one spouse can become marital property if the other spouse makes deposits to it; a house owned by one spouse alone can become marital property if both spouses pay the mortgage and other expenses during the marriage.
Your Debts Will Also Be Divided Property division is not just the division of assets. It is also the division of debts and liabilities. This is a factor that many people do not consider when they seek a divorce. If you and your spouse owe on a credit card debt, that liability must be accounted for when determining how your property will be divided.
If You Can’t Agree, A Judge Will Decide For You Some couples are able to agree on how to divide everything on their own. Others seek the help of attorneys or a mediator to negotiate a settlement. Couples who can’t manage to settle on terms with regard to the division of property issues outside of court will end up going to court to ask for a decision from an arbitrator or a judge.
Disputes over the division of property can lead to a severely contentious divorce, and it is vital that any couple seeking a divorce in Florida understand how the process works. If you are considering getting divorced in the State of Florida, it is critical that you utilize a skilled divorce attorney to help ensure your property rights and best interests are protected. Contact the attorneys at the Kendrick Law Group today to learn how we can help.