What Florida’s Equitable Distribution Laws Mean for Your Divorce Case
In a successful marriage, you usually do not think very much about what belongs to you as an individual and what belongs to you and your spouse as a family. When it comes to property division in a divorce, though, you and your spouse have to decide what belongs exclusively to one of you and what can be divided. If you cannot agree, the decision falls to the family court system. Judges in Florida apply the principle of equitable distribution when deciding how to divide property in a divorce.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
“Equitable” just means “fair.” Therefore, the doctrine of equitable distribution requires judges to divide property between divorcing spouses in a way that is fair. Equitable does not always mean equal. Judges take into consideration how much income each spouse obtained during the marriage. They also factor in the non-financial contributions of each spouse that made it possible for the other spouse to dedicate as much time as he or she did to the pursuit of wealth. They also consider the financial needs of each spouse and each party’s earning potential.
Importantly, Florida law requires divorcing couples and the judges deciding their cases to divide the couple’s property based on what is owned jointly and what each spouse owns individually. Marital property is money and other assets that belong to the couple jointly. Non-marital property is what each spouse owns by himself or herself. Only in extreme circumstances would someone have to surrender some of his or her non-marital property to his or her spouse in a divorce.
Marital and Non-Marital Property
The following are examples of possessions clearly designated as marital property:
- Bank accounts held in the name of both spouses
- A house or other piece of real estate with both spouses’ names on the title or deed
- Any asset acquired or debt incurred by either spouse, unless a written document at the time the asset was acquired or the debt was incurred specifies that it belongs to only one spouse
The following are examples of possessions clearly designated as non-marital property:
- Money or other assets inherited by one spouse
- Bank accounts held by one spouse since before the marriage, unless that spouse used money from those accounts to contribute financially to the household
The issue of marital and non-marital property is not always clear-cut. Something that one spouse owned before the marriage can become marital property, based on how that spouse uses the asset during the marriage. Likewise, if it can be shown that one spouse intentionally misused or destroyed some of the marital property during or in preparation for the divorce, it will have a negative impact on the share of the remaining marital property that spouse will be awarded in the divorce decree.
Contact Bundza & Rodriguez with Questions About Florida Property Division
Although basic guidelines are available online, it can be difficult for non-lawyers to tell how property should be divided. Bundza & Rodriguez, P.A. is a Daytona Beach, Florida law firm whose attorneys are skilled in property division. Contact Bundza & Rodriguez to see if your property was divided fairly in your divorce.