One of the most difficult issues in divorce is the division of assets and debts. It is common for people to purchase assets together during a marriage. Common assets that must be divided during the dissolution of marriage include:
- Other real property
- Bank accounts, stocks, bonds, and other security interests
- 401(k) plans, pensions, and other retirement benefits
- Deferred compensation or profit-sharing accounts
- Personal property
- Other items of value
·FFlorida law provides for an "equitable distribution" of marital assets and debts. Equitable Distribution refers to the division between spouses of tangible and intangible property, real property, assets and debts, and usually occurs in conjunction with the Dissolution of Marriage action. Equitable is not necessarily synonymous with equal in all cases.
Marital and Nonmarital Assets
There are two types of assets and debts in Florida: marital and nonmarital.
Generally, assets acquired during the marriage are considered marital assets and are subject to division during dissolution of the marriage.
Nonmarital assets are separate property of one spouse, and are not subject to division during dissolution of marriage. Property determined to be nonmarital is the sole property of the spouse who owns the asset. Nonmarital assets can include items or property listed in a premarital agreement, as well as any income from this property that has been held separately from marital funds, as well assets acquired by inheritance.
To learn about division of debts, read our article Dividing Debts In Divorce, Florida Family Law.
Equitable Distribution of Assets
The court must begin with the presumption that all marital assets are to be divided equally between the parties; however, the court may distribute the marital assets fairly and equitably - which may not necessarily be equally, with a 50/50 split, between the two parties.
The court decides equitable distribution based on a number of factors. These factors include the length of the marriage, the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, each spouse’s overall economic circumstances, each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, their nonmarital assets and debts, and whether either spouse intentionally wasted or destroyed marital assets either after the divorce petition was filed or within the two-years preceding it. The courts try to separate assets equitably or fairly. For example, if the court awards a business started during the marriage entirely to one spouse, the other spouse may receive property or money to make up for any marital interest in the business which was given to the first spouse.
The court should approve the division of assets and debts agreed to by both parties, as long as the court finds it reasonable. If no agreement is reached, the court will divide the assets and debts during trial.
The Florida Bar published a Divorce in Florida Pamphlet that offers an overview of the dissolution of marriage process and information on the equitable division of assets and debts. You can view the pamphlet here.
At Draper Law Office we handle dissolution of marriage cases involving complex division of assets and debts. To learn more about your legal rights involving dividing assets in divorce and equitable distribution, contact us or call (866) 767-4711 to schedule a consultation.
Draper Law Office proudly serves clients throughout Central Florida, including Kissimmee, St. Cloud, and Orlando, and Osceola County and Orange County, FL.