When a couple gets divorced, everything from the marriage must be sorted out by the courts. Among the many aspects that must be examined by the court, a universal one is property division, specifically Florida property division.
No divorcing couple should discount the guidance of a licensed Family Law attorney. Property division laws can be complex and lawyers have the proper training and experience to tell the judge what a divorcing spouse wants or needs from the property division.
Property Division Divorce Laws in Florida
The purpose of Florida property division laws is to make sure that marital property is allocated fairly to each spouse, starting with the presumption than an equal division of assets is fair. If a 50-50 split would not be equitable, the courts turn to Florida state law specifically Florida Statute §61.075(1).
However, the trial court judge receives great discretion when converting Florida marital property into separate Florida divorce property.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that with regard to Florida divorce assets, anything the spouses had before a marriage usually will not be included in Florida divorce assets or Florida divorce property. The only property that comes into the court's distribution is that which is legally classified as property of the marriage subject to Florida Statute §61.075(6)(a).
What is considered Marital and Non-Marital Property?
Florida marital property consists of all items acquired during the marriage by either spouse as well as separate items that were brought into a marriage and converted into marital property. These include:
- Assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage whether individually or jointly
- Gifts between spouses
- Vested and nonvested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs
Non-marital property consists of exemptions under Florida Statute §61.075(6)(b). Some of these are:
- Assets acquired before the marriage
- Property excluded by valid written agreement of the parties
- Liabilities incurred by forgery or unauthorized signature of one spouse signing the name of the other
Dividing Assets and Debt
After the court decides which property is available for distribution, the next step is property valuation.
The final step is either a 50-50 division or property or the most equitable division the court can come up with using Florida Statute §61.075(1). A number of factors are considered by the court in dividing assets and debt. Some of these are:
- The marriage's length
- Interruptions of either party's education or personal careers
- The parties' contributions to the marriage
- Intentional waste, depletion, destruction, etc. of marital assets after the petition is filed or within 2 years before the petition was filed
Using statutory factors, judges decide how a marriage's assets should be divided. Here is a list of the most common property items and the most common allocation scheme used.
- Cash: Divided equally among the spouses.
- Example 1: A joint savings account has $7,000. The court would most likely award $3,500 to each spouse.
- Example 2: A joint savings account has $4,000. One spouse contributed $3,000 and the other contributed $1,000. The amount may be divided in a 50-50 split or may be divided differently if the $1,000 contributor has fewer assets than the $3,000 contributor.
- Retirement Plans: Divided in a 50-50
split of the amount accrued during the marriage.
- Example 1: A spouse got benefits in a retirement plan after working for 25 years and was married for 20 of those years. The ex-spouse would most likely be entitled to 50% of that portion of the retirement plan that was acquired during the marriage.
- Example 2: A spouse has an unvested retirement plan. No division takes place until the plan is payable to the spouse who has it but the unvested portion is classified as marital property.
- Vehicles: Divided based on the values at
the date selected by the trial court.
May be sold or given to a spouse outright under the 50-50 split.
- Example 1: There is a car that was purchased by one of the parties during the marriage. The car will most likely be sold or given to a spouse as part of the 50-50 split of marital property.
- Example 2: A truck has a shared title. The truck may be sold with the proceeds going to each spouse 50-50 or the vehicle or given to a poorer spouse.
- Insurance: Divided based on its
classification as marital or separate property.
- Example 1: One spouse has covered the other under employer health insurance. The other spouse is in poor health and could not afford alternate health care coverage. The court may order the first spouse to continue covering that spouse for a set time period and/or award a cash payment for the ailing spouse to get alternate coverage.
- Example 2: One spouse has a life insurance policy where the ex-spouse is to get survivor benefits. The spouse will likely be entitled to a portion of the benefits.
Settling Disputes in a Divorce Case with Property and Asset Division
If a spouse is being uncooperative or there are problems with the property division, you may go back to court to get the order enforced and seek contempt against the uncooperative ex-spouse.
However, the trial court's determinations will not be changed unless there is clear evidence of an abuse of discretion.
Help From a Florida Property Divorce Lawyer
Retaining a Florida property divorce lawyer is key to getting the fairest result in the property division phase of a divorce. The lawyer can provide professional guidance, tell you about likely outcomes and help you present the best arguments to the trial judge handling the divorce.