Equitable Distribution of Property
West Palm Beach Divorce Lawyer
The division of a couple’s property is a major issue in many divorces. In Florida, courts may divide a couple’s property using the principles of equitable distribution. This means that the spouses’ marital property will be equitably divided. Equitably means fairly, though not necessarily equally. If you are considering a divorce, a dedicated West Palm Beach divorce lawyer can help you understand your options and guide you through the process.
Property Division Factors
Ideally, divorcing spouses should reach their own agreement on how to divide the couple’s property. But if they cannot reach an agreement, a judge will divide the couple’s marital property based on factors in Florida’s equitable distribution statute:
- Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage;
- Each spouse’s economic state;
- The duration of the marriage;
- Any sacrifice made by either spouse of educational or career opportunities for the sake of the marriage;
- Any contribution made by either spouse to the other spouse’s education;
- Whether it is best to preserve any asset whole and free from interference from the other spouse. For example, if a family-owned business were divided between divorcing spouses, its value would be seriously impaired, so the court would compensate the other spouse with other assets.
- Each spouse’s individual contribution to both the couple’s income and their debt;
- Whether it is possible for any children to continue living in the marital home, if it is in their best interests;
- Whether either spouse has intentionally wasted any of the couple’s marital assets within the past two years; and
- Any other factors necessary “to do equity and justice between the parties.”
A couple’s property is either nonmarital property or marital property. Only marital property is distributed in a divorce. Nonmarital property includes assets and liabilities owned by only one spouse, such as:
- Property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage,
- Gifts given or bequests made to one spouse only;
- Any income earned from nonmarital property, unless the other spouse contributed to the effort, or if it was treated as marital property;
- Any property or debts that the spouses agree, in writing, is nonmarital; and
- Any debts incurred because one spouse forged the other spouse’s signature.
- What remains is marital property, which includes the assets and liabilities belonging to both spouses equally. In Florida, marital property is:
- All property and debts acquired during the marriage, whether by one spouse’s efforts alone or by both;
- Any appreciation in value of nonmarital assets that can be attributed to either spouse’s efforts, or to the contribution of marital funds;
- All gifts give to one spouse by the other during the marriage,
- Insurance, pension, or retirement, pension, or insurance benefits acquired during the marriage; and
- Any property, including both real estate and personal property, such as cars or jewelry, that the spouses own jointly.
If you are considering a divorce, an experienced attorney can help you understand what is likely to happen to your property and can fight for your cause in court. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein to schedule a free initial consultation.