What is Equitable Distribution?


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. In the state of Florida, divorce courts use a principle called Equitable Distribution in order to determine how everything should be divided. But what is equitable distribution? Here’s a guide to the basics of Equitable Distribution so you know what to expect.

What Is Equitable Distribution in Florida?

Equitable Distribution focuses mainly on the assets, properties, and debts the married couple owned before filing for divorce. The idea is that the courts try to fairly divide them between each person according to a set of factors and criteria given the nature and circumstances of your marriage.

Marital vs Nonmarital Property

Before anything is divided, the court will determine if any properties are separate or “nonmarital”; those will not be divided by the court but will automatically belong to the given spouse. Here is a list of typical non-marital properties or assets:

  • Anything owned by a spouse before the marriage stays with the person who owned it
  • Anything given as a gift to one spouse will remain with that person as long as the other spouse gives it
  • Anything inherited by a spouse from a deceased friend or relative
  • Anything that has a valid written agreement saying that 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 cataloged and divided up by the court.

How Does the Court Determine Fair Division in Florida?

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 is 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, 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 who puts more work into non-financial duties, such as raising children or maintaining the home, is not left without assets after the divorce.

To learn more about divorce proceedings or discuss property division or other legal matters, contact a Tampa divorce attorney at Quinn Law Firm, P.A., to schedule a consultation.

Contact Our Experienced, Dedicated Divorce & Family Law Lawyers Today

As a dedicated family law practice in the Tampa Bay area, we work one on one with our clients, resulting in representation that is characterized by genuine care and understanding. If you are dealing with divorce or other family law issues, please contact at 813-223-7739  to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family and divorce attorneys.