Divorce is more than just separating from your spouse – you have to find a way to split apart your entire life, including your home, property, and other assets. If you and your spouse were married for a long time, it can be hard to even tell what you owned before you were married and who owns what property.
So how do you do it? When you get divorced in the Sunshine State, you will have to divide marital property based on Florida’s equitable distribution of property policies. Here’s what that means in actual English.
What Is Marital Property?
First, let’s lay out the rules for what is (and isn’t) considered marital property in Florida divorces. The following property is legally defined as “marital” property:
- Assets acquired during the marriage – Even if you bought a brand new watch during the course of your marriage with your own money, the watch may still be up for grabs, as anything acquired during the course of your marriage is considered marital property.
- Gifts between spouses – If your spouse gave you a new car for your birthday, he or she may want it back. These gifts are considered marital property, and are up for distribution. (Hope you’re not too attached, because often the gift-giver will get the property back.)
- Property held as “tenants by the entireties” – This type of agreement is exclusively held by married couples. Simply put, a spouse cannot sell or give up interest in a property without the permission of the other spouse. This type of ownership is split evenly between each spouse, and the property is marital property.
Property that was obtained before the marriage, or does not fit the credentials of marital property, will go back to the original owner, unless it is otherwise mutually decided by the couple who is filing for divorce. Property that is distributed through prenuptial agreements will also be considered non-marital property.
Splitting Property with Your Spouse – Simplified and Uncontested Divorce
When you get divorced in Florida, you and your spouse have the option of splitting marital property without the help of a judge. Filing for a simplified or uncontested divorce allows you to make your own decisions: this way, your court proceedings will go more smoothly and each party will be satisfied with the final rulings. In most cases, a judge will honor the distribution you have laid out in your divorce paperwork.
However, we all know that not every divorce will be filed and finalized that smoothly. In the case of a contested divorce, a judge will have to decide who gets what based on Florida’s policy of equitable distribution of property.
Here’s how that works.
Equitable Distribution of Property
As a judge begins to distribute marital property, he or she will rule by the Florida’s equitable distribution of property policy. This means that property is distributed fairly – but that doesn’t always mean equally.
The income, contributions, and economic situation of each spouse will serve as the main factors for dividing marital property. A judge will also consider the amount of time that you took off or used to pursue educational or career opportunities, and whether or not your employment status was determined by your contributions to your marriage or your family. The length of the marriage will also be considered when dividing property.
Also keep in mind that Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state. The reasons for divorce will not be considered as your property is being divided.
Fighting for Fair Distribution
Even with the policies Florida has set up to ensure equitable distribution of property, a contested divorce can still be stressful, and you may be nervous about getting the property you want or feel you deserve. For fair representation during a contested divorce, call a Florida family lawyer who will fight for you and the property you deserve.