When you get divorced, one of the most complicated parts of the legal proceedings is deciding how the various financial and physical properties are divided up. In the state of Florida, divorce courts uses a principle called Equitable Distribution in order to determine how everything should be divided. Here’s a guide to the basics of Equitable Distribution so you know what to expect.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Equitable Distribution is focused mainly on the assets, properties, and debts that the married coupled owned before filing for divorce. The idea is that the courts try to fairly divide them up between each person according to a set of factors and criteria given the nature and circumstances of your marriage.
Before anything is divided, the court will first determine if any properties are separate, or “nonmarital”, those will not be divided up by the court but will automatically belong to the given spouse. Here are a list of typical non-marital properties or assets:
- Anything owned by a spouse before the marriage stays with the person that owned it
- Anything given as a gift to one spouse will remain with that person as long as it was given by the other spouse
- Anything inherited by a spouse from a deceased friend or relative
- Anything that has a valid written agreement saying that says an asset or debt belongs to one specific spouse (e.g., a prenuptial agreement)
Any other properties, assets or debts that either spouse obtains over the duration of the marriage will be catalogued and divided up by the court.
How Does the Court Determine ‘Fair’ Division?
The couple can choose to make agreements without the court’s decision to divide up certain things on their own, as long as the agreements are in writing and each person was given the chance to discuss it with their lawyer. Generally, everything will be divided up more or less equally in total. For example, if one asset was determined to be fairly and completely something that only one spouse should own, then the court will award the equivalent value in other areas to balance it out.
The courts might award an imbalanced division for things like child support, time-sharing, and alimony payments depending on certain factors, such as the following:
- How long the marriage was
- The financial health of each spouse
- The determined importance of allowing any children of the marriage to continue to live in the family home
- If a spouse was the main breadwinner in the marriage, or the main child caregiver or homemaker
- If a spouse’s career or education was interrupted or if they aided the other spouse’s career or education
- If a spouse intentionally wasted or destroyed properties and assets within two years, or after, the divorce filing
Even if one of the spouses was the primary, or only, source of income for the marriage, they might give up more assets in alimony/child-support payments to the other. This is so a spouse that put more work into non-financial duties, such as raising any children or maintaining the home, is not left without any assets after the divorce.
To learn more about divorce proceedings or to discuss property division or other legal matters, get in touch with Quinn Law Firm, P.A. to schedule a consultation.