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Understanding Equitable Distribution in Divorce

Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that, in a Florida divorce, marital assets will be distributed in a way that is deemed by the court to be equitable or “fair.” At the start, under Florida’s equitable distribution law, the court maintains the basic premise that marital assets and liabilities should be distributed equally between the divorcing parties. The court then turns to a variant of relevant factors to determine whether the assets and liabilities should be distributed unequally and, if so, to what extent the court should deviate from an equal distribution.

If you are going through a Florida divorce or considering a Florida divorce, equitable distribution will be an important concept that can have significant impacts on your future. As such, it merits a closer look. Let’s discuss equitable distribution further in the hopes you will gain a better understanding of its role in your Florida divorce.

Understanding Equitable Distribution in Divorce

In determining whether deviating from an equal distribution of marital assets and debts would be equitable, the court uses the factors listed in Chapter 61, Section 075 of the Florida Statutes in its analysis of how to best achieve equity. These factors are:

  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, including providing care to children and rendering homemaker services.
  • Each spouse’s economic circumstances.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • Any interruptions in the career paths or educational opportunities experienced by either spouse throughout the marriage.
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the pursuit or furtherance of the other spouse’s career or educational opportunities.
  • The benefits of a spouse retaining any asset, including business interests, intact and free of interference or claim by the other spouse.
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the production of income or assets, or the incurrence of liabilities.
  • The benefits of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent children of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to have such an arrangement and is in the best interest of the child, among other factors.

Courts will also look at whether there was any marital waste as a factor in achieving an equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities. Marital waste refers to irresponsible financial behavior demonstrated by a spouse. Chapter 61, Section 075 of the Florida Statutes defines marital waste as “The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.” This means that if your soon to be former spouse intentionally squandered marital assets, the court may consider this and divide the marital assets in a way that is more favorable to you to make up for the marital waste.

It is also important to understand that equitable distribution only relates to the division of marital assets and debts. Marital assets, generally speaking, are those acquired throughout the marriage. Separate assets remain the sole property of one spouse. Separate property, for the most part, refers to those assets and liabilities incurred by the spouse prior to marriage. Separate property also includes things like parts of a personal injury award, gifts and inheritances, and a few other exceptions to the general rule that property acquired during the marriage is marital property.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

The legal intricacies and concepts involved in a Florida divorce can be complicated, but have important impacts on your post-divorce life and financial well-being. You can count on the team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou to help you navigate these complexities and provide you with dedicated legal representation to protect your best interests throughout the divorce process. Contact us today.

Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.