One of the most significant issues in any divorce is deciding who gets to keep what. Who gets the house? Who gets the car? Most married couples accumulate a wide variety of assets during their lives together, and it can be extremely difficult to figure out how to divide that property between them.
Disputes over the division of property can lead to a severely contentious divorce, and it is vital that any couple seeking a divorce in Florida understand how the process works. Below we have detailed six important things divorcing couples should know about Florida property division. Keep in mind that every divorce is unique, and you should always consult with an attorney regarding the specific details of your divorce and property division.
1) If you can’t agree, a judge will decide for you
As with most aspects of a divorce, if you and your spouse are unable to settle on terms with regard to the division of property, then you will be forced to go to trial and have a judge decide. Whether or not it is in your best interests to allow a judge to adjudicate the property division should be carefully considered and discussed with your attorney.
2) Florida is an “Equitable Distribution” state
The division of property in a divorce varies from state to state, and the results can vary drastically depending on where you actually get divorced. Florida is considered an equitable distribution state. This means that a judge will seek to divide the divorcing couple’s property in a fair and equitable manner. The courts will split things up however they need to in order to make the distribution as fair as it can be.
3) “Equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal”
The most important thing to remember about the concept of equitable distribution is that it will not always result in an equal split. While most courts will attempt to make the division of property as equal as possible, a judge may determine that it would be fair to split the property in an uneven manner, granting more to one spouse than the other. There is a wide variety of circumstances that could factor into such a decision, so always keep in mind that equitable does not necessarily mean equal.
4) Marital vs. nonmarital property
The division of your property will be significantly impacted by determinations on what qualifies as marital property, and what qualifies as separate, nonmarital property. Nonmarital assets are generally those that were obtained prior to the marriage, or inherited after the marriage. In most cases, property obtained during the marriage will be considered marital property. Only marital property will be divided between the two spouses, while nonmarital property will be kept by whichever spouse is considered the owner. Determining what qualifies as marital property can be an extremely complex process. For example, nonmarital assets obtained prior to marriage that increased in value during the marriage may require that the increase in value be considered a marital asset. Additionally, commingling—or sharing in some manner—nonmarital assets during your marriage may cause them to become marital assets. We highly recommend you utilize a skilled divorce attorney to help you determine what should be considered marital versus nonmarital property.
5) Florida courts will account for difficult-to-divide assets
Some things cannot be reasonably or practically divided. For example, no judge is going to require a divorcing couple to share their home. Thus, the judge could grant the home to one spouse and require financial compensation be granted to the other spouse for their “share” of the home. This often occurs in scenarios when one spouse owns a business. The courts will account for practical matters with regard to property division when making its decision on how to distribute marital property between the divorcing spouses.
6) Your debts will also be divided
Property division is not just the division of assets. It is also the division of debts and liabilities. This is a factor that many people do not consider when they seek a divorce. If you and your spouse owe $10,000 in credit card debt, that liability must be accounted for when determining how your property will be divided.
If you are considering getting divorced in the State of Florida, it is vital that you utilize a skilled divorce attorney to help ensure your property rights and best interests are protected. Contact the Vasquez de Lara Law Group today to learn how we can help.