Divorce and Property Division in Florida
If asked, most divorced individuals would say that the experience massively transformed their life in a relatively short period of time. Transitioning from the viewpoint of considering oneself as a “me” instead of a “we” once the divorce is finalized requires a significant shift in mindset that is often painful and difficult. Beyond the emotional and intellectual realignment that comes with divorce, financial arrangements must be untangled and separated before the parties can begin the next stage of life. Most couples intermingle the use, contribution, and ownership of property and financial accounts to some degree, and the longer a couple is together, the more complicated this issue typically becomes. Parties are of course free to work out their own property distribution agreement, and this is generally preferred because it gives the parties an opportunity to assent to a settlement that works best for them. However, the law recognizes decisions about property division in divorce can easily turn contentious, and consequently, there are provisions that direct the courts on how to resolve property distribution in divorce cases. This is a central issue in most divorce cases, and as such, an overview of how Florida law treats this matter will follow below.
It is important to know that the property division system in Florida is based on equitable distribution. This means that judges will divide marital property based on what is fair, and they start from the premise that property should be equally divided. Then, to determine if equal distribution is just, the court then weighs a number of factors aimed at revealing if one party’s greater contributions or bad acts justify a different result. Some of these factors include:
- the contribution of each spouse to the marriage;
- the economic resources of each party;
- the length of the marriage;
- the support a spouse provided to the advancement of the other spouse’s career or education;
- the contribution of each spouse to toward increasing the value of assets, or the accumulation of liabilities;
- a desire to retain possession of the marital home for the benefit of a minor child; and
- any intentional waste or dissipation of assets by a spouse after the divorce petition was filed or within the two years prior.
In addition, it is also important to note that courts divide assets and liabilities, so unless there is a basis to place all or most of the debt with one party, both will share in the responsibility to repay these obligations.
Since Florida law only requires the division of marital property, it is essential to understand what this term means. Marital property includes all of the following:
- assets and debts acquired during the marriage, both individually and jointly;
- an appreciation in value of non-marital assets through the use marital funds and/or efforts of either spouse during the marriage;
- real property acquired by the parties together before or during the marriage;
- spousal gifts; and
- vested and unvested rights and benefits in retirement accounts, pensions, annuities, and insurance policies that accrued during the marriage. Note that if one these benefits stems from service in the military, and the spouses were married for at least ten years during which the military spouse was a servicemember, special rules apply on how an asset of this type may be distributed.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
The rules on property distribution in a Florida divorce are fairly complex, and require an experienced divorce attorney to assess what is appropriate under the law. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian has extensive experience with financially complex divorce cases, and can help you obtain the outcome you desire. Contact the office for a free consultation.