Property Division in Divorce
Extricating yourself from a marriage that no longer works is a multi-step process that becomes more or less complicated by disputes over pivotal issues like child custody, child/spousal support or property division. While disputes in divorce are expected to some extent, property division, in particular, can create thorny problems if a couple owns a business together, owns many different types of property, or involves one spouse providing all the funds to acquire new assets. Uneven or one-sided financial contributions from a spouse for the benefit of the marital estate often leads to animosity between a divorcing couple, as the breadwinning spouse may assert he/she should get a larger share because the couple would not own the property if not for the efforts of this spouse.
While courts encourage divorcing couples to mutually agree on property division, if such agreement does not occur, a judge will step in and establish which spouse will keep each piece of the couple’s shared property. Florida law, however, does not divide the property of a divorcing couple purely along the lines of financial contribution, but first starts from the premise that property division should be equal, unless justice requires a court to order a different outcome. It is important to note that both assets and liabilities are typically divided equally in a divorce, so one spouse is not left holding all the accumulated debt amassed by both spouses during the course of the marriage. Since this subject can present many challenges to a divorcing couple, an overview of property division in a divorce will follow below.
Factors Justifying Unequal Distribution
As stated above, Florida favors an equitable division of property in divorces, typically a 50/50 split, but courts are permitted to deviate from this standard after considering all factors relevant to property division with a specific couple. Florida law lays out a number of factors that courts should pay particular attention to when making this determination. These include:
- the contributions made by both spouses to the marriage, including services provided as a homemaker and stay-at-home parent;
- the economic resources of each party;
- h0w long the couple was married;
- foregoing educational or career opportunities by either spouse;
- the contributions of one spouse to the education and/or career prospects of the other;
- wish of one spouse to keep certain assets, especially an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice without impediment from the other spouse;
- the contribution of each spouse to the purchase, improvement or production of marital and non-marital assets, and the decline or increase of the couple’s liabilities;
- the wish to keep the marital home; and
- the deliberate waste, reduction or destruction of marital property after filing a divorce petition or within the previous two years.
Non-marital vs. Marital Property
One crucial determination that greatly impacts the how property will be divided in any divorce is the identification of property as marital or non-marital. Non-marital property is not included in the marital estate, and ownership is retained by the spouse who first received it. Basically, figuring out if property qualifies as marital or non-marital hinges on when and how ownership was acquired. If the property was purchased during the marriage, was a gift from one spouse to the other, or was non-marital property that increased in value due to efforts of the couple or marital funds, the property is included in the marital estate. If, however, the property was obtained before marriage, through inheritance or gift from a non-spouse, or property specifically excluded as a marital asset through a written agreement, it is considered non-marital and not subject to division in a divorce.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
The financial stability of a person involved in a divorce hinges on the division of property, so it is very important to make sure the all the assets and liabilities are fully disclosed and the contributions of both parties are completely considered. A divorce attorney can help ensure you receive a fair and just share of the marital estate. The Fort Lauderdale law firm of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. offers experienced legal representation for all family law matters, including divorce. Contact us for a free consultation.