In many divorce cases, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities is the most important part of the divorce because it can be used by the court to determine the amount of alimony that one spouse must pay the other. In Florida, courts must distribute property between divorcing parties according to the equitable distribution statute.
Even though courts must follow this law on the basis of “equal division of assets,” it does not necessarily mean that there will ultimately be a 50/50 split of the couple’s property.
If the divorcing couple can come to an agreement about property division on their own, then their division agreement is generally accepted by the court. If the parties cannot agree, however, then the court must decide.
Discord in equitable division matters typically arises with property classification. Marital property consists of assets or liabilities that were obtained during the marriage; any assets or liabilities gained prior to the marriage are classified as non-marital or separate property with some exceptions. For instance, if any non-marital property becomes intermingled with marital property during the marriage, then the former can get classified as marital property. In court proceedings, once decisions regarding all property have been made, the court first awards each spouse his or her own non-marital property before distributing the marital property among the parties.
Because the equitable distribution statute cannot always be followed such that asset division is strictly equal, the court must take several relevant factors into account in their rulings on property division:
- Contributions to the marriage by each spouse, including child care and maintenance of the home
- Marriage duration
- Financial state of each party
- Contributions to the purchase and maintenance of assets by each party
- Desirability of keeping any assets, including business or professional practice interests, free from dispute or interference by the other party
- Desirability of residing in the marital home and the best interest of the children or party requesting residence
- Any other relevant factors to consider for equitable and justified division of assets between divorcing parties
Ann Goade is experienced in equitable distribution and works to make sure her clients receive the fairest division of marital property possible. She will help with each step of the process, from determining amounts of marital property to the filing of correct financial affidavits for court proceedings.