If you are getting a divorce in Florida, you need to understand how Florida marital property division laws work when cars, houses, bank accounts, retirement benefits, cash, stocks, and other personal property were acquired during the marriage. Florida divorce laws require equitable distribution of marital property in the proceedings. Marital property is both the assets and debts acquired during the marriage.
Even under the best of terms, deciding who should get what can be a challenge. But more so, when spouses in a divorce are unwilling to compromise. When unable to come to an agreement on their own, the court will fairly divide the marital property for the spouses in the divorce. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the marital property division will be equal. Florida divorce courts will make an unequal distribution of marital property based on several different factors, including:
- Contributions to the Care & Education of the Children and services as a Homemaker
- The economic circumstances of the Parties
- Duration of the marriage
- Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party
- Contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse;
- Desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any children of the marriage
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Differences Between Separate & Marital Property
Most spouses in a divorce don’t have a good understanding of the differences between separate and marital property. Separate property includes any property that was owned prior to the marriage, an inheritance received either before or after the marriage, a gift received from a third party (such as your mother’s diamond ring), or payment received for pain an suffering in a personal injury judgement.
Separate property can lose its status if commingled with marital property or vice versa. For example, if you transfer title to a property you separately owned prior to the marriage by adding your spouse as a co-owner, the property will then be considered marital property. All property that is acquired during a marriage is considered to be marital property regardless of how property is titled or which spouse owns it. That’s what most people fail to understand. A common example of the misconception most people have pertains to 401K plans. When a 401k plan is acquired during the marriage it is marital property, whether a spouse is listed on title or not.
Marital property involves all income and expenses acquired by either spouse throughout the marriage, including:
- Life Insurance (Especially those with cash values);
- Brokerage Accounts- mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc.
- Bank Accounts- Checking’s, Savings, Christmas Club, CD’s, etc;
- Closely-held Businesses;
- Professional Practices and Licenses;
- Real Estate;
- Limited Partnerships;
- Cars, boats, etc;
- Art, antiques;
- Tax Refunds; and more
- Pension Plans
- IRA’s and other retirement plans;
- Deferred Compensation;
- Stock Options;
- Restricted Stocks and other equity;
- County Club Memberships;
Florida Is An Equitable Distribution State
Settlements in Equitable Distribution States do not need to be equal, but rather be fair and equitable. Several factors are considered in Equitable Distribution, including the financial state of the spouses when dividing the assets. A court can consider any factors it may consider relevant. That’s why it is so difficult, or even impossible, to predict the outcome when these matters are left up to a court’s discretion. That’s probably why over 95% of all divorces are settled out of court.
If you are getting a divorce in Florida and are dealing with marital property division or have questions, our Florida divorce lawyers in Miami would like to meet with you in person to carefully evaluate your situation. To learn more about our services and how we can help you with marital property division and other aspects of your divorce, schedule a consultation now.