Florida Equitable Distribution|Divorce
What is Equitable Distribution in Florida? Equitable Distribution is the way your marital property is divided up. Marital property is divided into categories: assets and liabilities. It is called “equitable” because each party should get an equal value of the marital assets and liabilities. You and your spouse each should have approximately the same net worth after the divorce.
Why Equitable Distribution? As the Florida Supreme Court stated in Robertson v. Robertson, 593 So. 2d 491, 493 (Fla. 1991), “equitable distribution is premised on the theory of an equal partnership in marriage.” The court is directed to start with the premise that a distribution of marital property will be equal, but the statute does recognize that there may be situations which justify awarding a greater percentage of one or all assets to one party over the other.
Assets Example: For example, let’s say both your car and your spouse’s car (the ones you drive most often) are in your spouse’s name. Even though your spouse technically owns both cars by title, one should be distributed to you. The court has the power to do this under Florida Statute 61. This is for the purpose of equitable distribution. If only one of you owns a car, the spouse who uses the car the most will most likely get to keep it. The Court will award the other spouse an asset of equal value.
Liabilities: The same principle applies with liabilities. Unfortunately, this means that if one spouse accrued a lot of debt, both spouses will share the debt equally. The court can order the parties to divide the debt. Each spouse will settle their half with the creditor. One issue here is that in the event of a default on the debt, the creditor will go after the legally financial responsible party. You may however, be able to negotiate different terms and payment plans with the creditors. Of course this is an issue to discuss with your attorney.
Possible Exemptions: Very little is considered non-marital property in Florida. Thus, few things are exempt from the principle of Equitable Distribution. There are, however, a few possible exceptions Section 61.075(1) lists several factors that may call for an unequal division:
- items acquired before marriage
- an inheritance specific to you individually
- gifts specifically made to one party, but not the other.
There are also a number of factors which may influence how “equitable” the distribution of your property actually is. These are issues like the financial situations of each spouse, how much each spouse contributed to the marriage (for example, paying for the other spouse’s education), and how long you have been married. Contributions to the marriage need not always be material. The The court may also consider one spouse giving up a career, taking care of an aged parent, the time taken to raise children or to manage the home. I will explain how this will affect your case.
Once you provide me with all of the financial information and you answer any questions that I may have, I will prepare an equitable distribution worksheet based on different division scenarios. This will help us to prepare for the financial aspects of your case.
To schedule a consultation on this issue or other Family and Marital law matters please call 727-846-1802. Know your rights.
Written by Debora A. Diaz, Esq.