One of the more complicated issues in any divorce is how the property will be divided between the spouses. Each state has its own rules regarding the division of property in divorce, and Florida uses the concept of “ equitable distribution.” While many people assume that this means an equal split of the property, it actually refers to the fair distribution of property. This means that the judge can award more to one spouse than the other if he believes it to be fair.Marital and Non-Marital Property
The court splits the division of property into two separate categories: marital and non-marital property. Marital property is considered all property that is acquired after the marriage, including real estate and personal property. Non-marital property is considered to be all property that is owned by each individual spouse prior to the marriage.
However, there are some exceptions to what is considered marital and non-marital property. Some non-marital property, such as a home, can be converted to marital property if both spouses contributed to its upkeep or appreciation. In addition, the law exempts property that is acquired by gift, legacy, or descent, property acquired through the exchange of non-marital property, and property excluded through court order during the marriage as non-marital property belonging to one spouse.Considerations for Equitable Distribution
Typically, the court encourages divorcing couples to come to their own agreement regarding the equitable distribution of property. However, if the spouses cannot agree on the terms the court will distribute the property according to a set of guidelines established in Florida law. Section 61.075 of the Florida statutes state that a judge may consider the following factors when equitably distributing property:
- The contribution to the marriage by each spouse;
- The economic circumstances of the parties;
- The duration of the marriage;
- Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
- The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse;
- The desirability of retaining any asset, business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party;
- The contribution of each spouse to the marital assets and the non-marital assets of the parties;
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible;
- The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to the filing of the petition; and
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties
At Stok Kon + Braverman, we understand how difficult the many issues in a divorce can be. If you or a loved one is considering a divorce or has questions regarding the equitable distribution of property in the Tampa Bay area, call or contact our office today. We provide private and free consultations* of your family law concerns.