One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is the division of property. Florida is considered an equitable distribution state which means the courts will attempt to divide everything perfectly in half. The courts will consider several factors to determine what is fair, or “equitable.” This provides opportunities for property to be distributed unequally among the divorcing spouses if an unequal distribution would be equitable or fair. Every situation is different and an experienced attorney can help you figure out a distribution that is equitable for you.
In addition, not all property is automatically assumed to be “marital” property in Florida. As matters tend to become complicated in this arena, it is strongly advised you seek the aid of a professional divorce and family law attorney in Florida to tackle the issue of marital property and debt distribution.
“Property” in divorce terms refers to assets and liabilities. Assets may include things like real estate, bank and retirement accounts, employee benefits, intellectual property, stock options, businesses, and tangible personal property. Liabilities are any kind of debt, from loans to mortgages and even credit card debt and tax liens.
In general, marital property in Florida includes all assets and liabilities acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Not all property is considered marital property. In Florida, any property that a spouse owned before the time of marriage or any property that is included in a valid written agreement as non-marital property is not considered marital property.
However, if property is acquired during the marriage in just one spouse’s name and is not specifically excluded as non-marital property by a valid written agreement both spouses are still responsible for the debt. For example, if you or your spouse opened a credit card, and only one of you made purchases on that card, you and your spouse still jointly own the debt. This is the general approach taken by the courts, although if there is a sign of reckless spending, the debt may be assigned to the party who acted recklessly.
How is property divided in Florida?
Couples can agree to the division of property on their own with the counsel of a Florida divorce attorney, or they may decide to seek the aid of a mediator. When an agreement cannot be reached outside of the courts, a judge will decide who is entitled to what property. Several factors are considered when making this decision, although generally Florida courts strive to distribute assets equally among the spouses.
Since debt is considered a type of property under Florida divorce law, the value of all marital debts is also divided equitably by the courts. Like other types of property the courts will try to divide debts equally among the spouses, but may consider other factors that distribute the debt unequally but more equitably — or fairly — among the spouses.
It can often be difficult for spouses to determine the best way to distribute their marital property and debt amongst each other. This is one area in which attorneys regularly witness divorcing parties run into confusion and conflict. It is one of the most critical areas of divorce, which is why you should work with an experienced Florida family law attorney like Paul G. Finizio to proceed. With over 45 years of experience, our family-run law firm is dedicated to helping families navigate divorce as smoothly as possible. Call 1-866-346-4946 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.