Distributing Property in a Florida Divorce
Divorce is never easy. Emotions aside, the process can become even more complicated when couples are faced with the task of distributing property and assets. It is not uncommon for divorcing couples to disagree over who should keep what. Before wasting time with conflicts over how your property and assets should be divided during a divorce, it is important to understand some basics about Florida’s property distribution divorce laws.
Is Florida a Community Property State?
Short answer: no.
In community property states, both spouses are co-owners of marital assets and debts. Any property, accounts, income, or debts incurred during the marriage is considered “community property” and is distributed equally between spouses at divorce. Like most states, Florida is not a community property state. Instead, Florida uses an equitable distribution approach to distribute marital property.
Equitable Distribution in Florida
Equitable distribution does not mean that your property and assets will be distributed equally. The goal is to have the property be distributed fairly, meaning that certain personal and administrative factors are taken into consideration when distributing assets. Generally, equitable distribution will not result in a 50/50 split of assets but each case is different and requires its own analysis.
How is Property Divided?
In distributing assets farily, a Florida Judge can make an unequal distribution after considering factors such as:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse’s economic circumstance
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage either as an income-provider or homemaker
- Each spouse’s debts
- Whether either spouse intentionally wasted/destroyed marital property after the divorce petition was filed or two years before the petition was filed
Couples may be able to come to an agreement on how marital assets will be divided on their own, or by consulting a mediator. Generally, these agreements will be upheld if it is in writing and each spouse was able to consult his or her own attorney. But in cases where a couple cannot agree on the terms of the distribution, a judge will decide.
What is Marital Property?
Generally, unless you have a valid and legally written agreement that states otherwise, marital property includes all the assets and debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage and is subject to division at divorce. Assets include money, joint bank accounts, property, retirement accounts, benefits, and other items.
Separate property, on the other hand, is property acquired before the marriage, including gifts and inheritances. Separate property may also include debts and property that a couple characterizes as separate in a valid written agreement. Separate property may become marital in some cases. For example, if one spouse’s separate property increased in value during the marriage due to the efforts of the other spouse, a court may consider the difference in the value of the property as marital asset.
It is not uncommon for disputes to arise from distribution of marital assets during divorce proceedings. Couples are often not able to agree on which spouse is entitled to what assets following a divorce.
That is why we recommend hiring a Family Law Attorney who is knowledgeable in Florida’s distribution laws. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm has a team of experienced Family, Probate, Family and Estate Planning attorneys located in Coral Gables, Florida. As attorneys who specialize in Family Law matters, we understand how emotional divorce proceedings can be. If you are considering filing for a divorce, or are currently going through divorce proceedings, contact us to set up an appointment to evaluate your options.