The law requires divorcing couples to divide their property fairly but the split does not need to be equal. The spouses might have different ideas about what is a fair division.
Preparing the necessary financial disclosures, confirming a spouse’s disclosure, and negotiating a reasonable division require assistance from a local family attorney. A Miramar equitable distribution lawyer makes sure your property settlement reflects your contributions to the marriage and provides the foundation you need to begin your next chapter.
Distinguishing Marital Property From Personal Property
Identifying all the marital property is the first step in the property division process. Anything that the couple – or either spouse – acquired during the marriage is marital property. It does not matter if only one spouse’s name is on the title or registration, nor whose money paid for it.
Marital property could include real estate, vehicles, art, furniture, farmland, jewelry, businesses, retirement accounts, pension plans, cash, and even pets. Debts that either spouse or the couple incurred during the marriage are also considered marital property.
Most couples have some property that could be considered separate property. Anything that a valid prenuptial agreement identifies as separate property is not included as part of the equitable distribution. Property a spouse owned before marriage, gifts to a single spouse (except gifts one spouse gave to the other), and inheritances are all separate property.
Acquiring an Interest in a Spouse’s Separate Property
If one spouse has separate property that has increased in value because of the other spouse’s efforts, the increase in value could make it marital property. An example would be if one spouse entered the marriage with a rental unit and the other spouse oversaw renovations and redecoration that increased its value.
Mixing separate property with marital property could also result in the other spouse obtaining an interest in it. If someone inherited money and deposited it in the family vacation fund, the money that was once separate is likely now marital property. A Miramar equitable distribution attorney can advise a person about whether they might have a financial interest in their spouse’s separate property.
Determining a Fair Split of Marital Property
When the parties have agreed on which property must be divided and which can be kept separate, they must then identify the value the property. Depending on the type of property the couple owns, accurate valuation could require appraisers, real estate experts, and business valuation specialists.
When the valuation is complete, the parties negotiate a division that is equitable. If they cannot agree and a Judge must decide, Florida Statute § 61.075 directs them to consider the following:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The financial contributions of each spouse;
- Each spouse’s contributions to keeping the home and raising the children of the marriage;
- Whether either spouse prioritized family over career advancement;
- Whether either spouse contributed to the education or career of the other spouse;
- The benefit to the children of the marriage remaining in the family home;
- Whether a business or similar asset is more valuable if undivided.
If marital misconduct wasted marital assets—for example, if one spouse spent marital funds on an extramarital affair—a Judge could award the wronged spouse a larger share of the marital property.
Spouses usually benefit by negotiating an acceptable property division settlement before a Judge must decide. A Judge might use a more mathematical approach, while a negotiated settlement often allows each spouse to retain property that is more meaningful to them. If necessary, a Miramar attorney could negotiate equitable distribution with the other spouse’s legal representative.
Consult a Miramar Equitable Distribution Attorney for Guidance Today
Achieving an equitable division of marital property is often a difficult task. Disagreements could arise over the identity of separate property, asset valuation, and whether each party fully disclosed their debts and assets.