One of the most contentious issues to resolve in a divorce is how to divide the marital property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the property must be divided fairly, however, this does not mean a 50-50 split. If you are divorcing, the best way to protect your property rights and your future is to consult an experienced family law attorney.
The Differences Between Marital Property and Separate Property
To understand how marital property is divided, it is important to differentiate between marital property and separate property. Marital property includes:
- Property purchased by either spouse during the marriage, regardless of how title is held
- Property jointly acquired by the couple while they were married (e.g. a house, car)
- Each spouse’s income during marriage
- Retirement benefits (e.g. 401(k)s IRAs) earned by either spouse during the marriage
While family businesses and professional practices are also subject to the rules of equitable distribution, splitting up a business may not be a workable solution. Therefore, the courts typically award the business to the party who runs it, while awarding additional property or a lump sum payment to the other spouse as compensation.
By contrast, each spouse retains his or her separate property, which includes:
- Property acquired by either spouse before the marriage
- Property received by either spouse individually, such as an inheritance or gift
- A monetary award from a legal settlement
- Property specified under a valid prenuptial agreement
To arrive at an equitable distribution of the marital property, however, the court has the discretion to consider the value of each spouse’s separate property and grant on of the parties a reasonable monetary award.
Factors Involved in Equitable Distribution
The courts consider a number of factors in determining equitable distribution, not the least of which is each spouse’s financial status, income, and earning capacity. Other factors include the duration of the marriage, each party’s contribution to acquiring marital property, each spouse’s future financial needs, and whether one party is receiving spousal support.
Although the division of marital property in Florida is governed by the rules of equitable distribution, it is crucial to have proper legal representation so that your interests are protected. At Orlando Family Team, we have extensive experience preparing prenuptial and post-marital agreements and leveraging our negotiating skills to arrive at a fair and equitable divorce settlement. When you work with our husband and wife team, you have peace of mind knowing that our experienced family law attorneys are on your side.