Regardless of the length of the marriage, the issue of property distribution resulting from divorce can be the source of frustration without some legal counsel. The state of Florida operates under the “equitable distribution” laws. This means that any property acquired during the marriage belongs to the spouse who earned it. Florida law requires that property distribution is equitable, although this doesn’t necessarily mean equal. Often the issue is taken care of with a marital settlement agreement. This isn’t always the case. A court may have to step in and help divide the couple’s assets and liabilities if problems arise with the marital agreement.
The judge will assume the division to be equal but there are certain factors which may need to be examined to justify an unequal distribution. The Florida statute 61.075 defines these relevant factors as follows:
- Length of the marriage
- Economic circumstances of spouses
- Interruptions in spouses personal career or education
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage including as the homemaker or the primary caretaker of any children
- Whether it makes sense to maintain assets without interference from the other spouse
- Whether the marital home should remain the primary residence for the children
- Either spouses contributions to enhancing the value of marital assets or of the non-marital assets of the other spouse
- Any other factor that the court feels necessary to do equal justice
The family law court will first determine what is marital property and what is non-marital property. Most often property and debt acquired before a marriage is non-marital and property, debt acquired during the marriage is classified as marital. Although there are some exceptions such as gifts and inheritance which could be classified as non-marital.
The primary goal of equitable distribution is to distribute and liquidate the property of the couple equitably at the time the final judgment is entered.
Marital Property and Debt Definition in the State of Florida
What exactly is marital property? How does the state of Florida define what is marital and what is non-marital? Marital property means that it belongs to both spouses. Below are examples:
- Property acquired during marriage by either spouse or jointly acquired
- Gifts between the spouses
- Increases in values of separate property that occurs during the marriage as a result of either spouse’s efforts or of contributions of marital funds or other assets
- Retirement or pension benefits earned during the marriage
- Tangible property spouses own together such as real estate, vehicles
Marital property is distributed before alimony is considered. Florida is a “no fault” jurisdiction. This means that a spouse can’t ask the court to punish a spouse for bad behavior by withholding assets.
Non marital property is that property and debt which has been acquired before marriage. It can be classified as follows:
- Property earned before the marriage
- Any gift to an individual spouse from a third person
- Income earned from non-marital asset unless it was relied on or treated as joint income
- Anything in writing the couple agrees is not marital property
- Any liability that was incurred by forgery or an unauthorized signature of the other spouse
Let an experienced Hunter Law attorney assist you through this transitional time in your divorce. We are here to help you through the legal aspects of property distribution.