When it comes to the distribution of assets and debts during a divorce, states follow either a community property rule or an equitable distribution rule. In community property states, a judge divides a couple’s assets and debts in half, regardless of whether this division is fair to either party.
In states – including Florida – that use equitable distribution, marital assets and marital debts that are acquired during a marriage are divided “fairly and justly” between both parties in a divorce. But that does not always mean that both parties will receive an equal distribution of property, which is why an experienced family law attorney best handles these types of cases.
What Factors Determine Equitable Distribution?
In Florida, Statute 61.075 directs family court judges to make a final decision that distributes marital assets and marital debt equally between both parties, unless a judge finds reasons that justify unequal distribution.
But prior to making a decision, a family court judge will take into account a number of significant factors, which include:
- Economic status of each claimant.
- The contribution each spouse made to the marriage, which can include childcare and educational achievement.
- Length of the marriage.
- Sacrifices each person made in career and educational opportunities. For example, did one spouse leave a job to accommodate relocation for another spouse?
- The contribution each spouse made to the income, assets and debts during the marriage.
- Whether either spouse intentionally wasted, depleted or destroyed marital assets after the divorce petition was filed, or within two years prior to filing for divorce.
- Whether selling the marital home would be contrary to the best interests of any child involved in the divorce proceedings.
- Any other factors that a judge deems important for equity and justice between both parties.
If a judge decides to award property to one spouse instead of ordering that it be sold and the proceeds divided equally, Florida law requires that the judge base that decision on “competent and substantial evidence” that the spouse who was awarded the property has a right to the property based on evidence presented by a lawyer. The judge must also document why the non-equitable distribution was made.
How Are ‘Marital Assets’ Defined?
Marital assets are defined as property that was acquired during a marriage, whether by purchase or through other means.
Some common types of marital assets include:
- Real estate
- Personal property, such as jewelry or antiques
- Gifts that one spouse gave to the other spouse
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Patents, trademarks and copyrights
- Any benefits obtained from insurance, pensions, social security and workers’ compensation
- Stock options
How Is ‘Marital Debt’ Defined?
Marital debt is defined as any liability that a couple incurred during their marriage. Some common types of debt include:
- Credit card debt
- Student loans
- Car loans
- Tax liens
- Medical expenses
The Importance of Hiring a Family Lawyer
If you have filed a petition for divorce, you should strongly consider hiring a marital and family lawyer to ensure that all your rights are protected. For more than 29 years, The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire has helped clients navigate through this often difficult process. Please call us at 561-295-3693 to schedule your legal consultation.