Divorce can mean many things to many people, but usually the two main areas where issues come up in divorce are children and property. In this post, we’ll talk briefly about the basic approach to property division in Florida. The basic approach is one which is shared by a majority of states: equitable distribution.
Equitable distribution is distinguishable from the alternative “community property” approach in that marital assets are not split 50-50, but rather in a manner which is deemed fair and just. What is fair and just may end up being an even split, but often is not. Florida judges, under state law, are to begin with the presumption that the distribution of marital property is to be equal, unless there are factors which require an unequal distribution to achieve an equitable result.
Florida law specifies that judges are to take into consideration “all relevant factors” in making an equitable division of marital property, including: the economic circumstances of both parties; the length of the marriage; each spouse’s respective contributions to the marriage; and contributions each spouse made to the “acquisition, enhancement, and production of income” as well as “the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities."
What exactly, though, are “marital assets and liabilities?” According to state law: all assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage by either spouse together or separately; gifts between spouses during the marriage; and any increase in the value and appreciation of non-marital assets resulting from either expenditure of marital assets or the efforts of either party during the marriage. Also included are benefits, funds and rights connected to retirement, pension, insurance, annuity, and deferred compensation plans.
While state law has a specific definition regarding what constitutes marital and non-marital property, the good news is that couples preparing for marriage are capable of redefining these terms and assigning rights and duties which trump state law, by means of a marital agreement. We’ll explore this issue in a future post.
Source: Florida State Legislature, “The 2014 Florida Statutes,” Accessed Jan. 12, 2015.