In regards to property division during dissolution of marriage proceedings, Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that, while the court tries to be fair, property is not always divided equally. The court differentiates between marital and nonmarital property, and considers several factors when determining who is entitled to what. Debt is also considered “property” for divorce purposes, further complicating this element of divorce. It always helps to seek the legal aid of a bonafide divorce attorney in Miami, Florida to understand the inner workings of property division.
What counts as “property” for a Florida divorce?
The legal term for “property” as it relates to divorce includes assets and liabilities. These terms can be broken down even further:
Assets include real estate, bank and retirement accounts, accrued sick and vacation pay, intellectual property, stock options, businesses, and tangible personal property.
A liability is any kind of debt, from loans to mortgages to credit card debts and tax liens.
Nonmarital vs. Marital Property and Liabilities
Simply stated, nonmarital property includes all pre-marriage assets and liabilities. An asset that was owned before the marriage or a debt incurred prior to the marriage continues belonging to the original owner or obligor. Nonmarital property includes:
- Assets and/ or debts that the spouses have defined as separate property in a written agreement
- Premarital assets and debts that hold their value
- Income from nonmarital assets (so long as the spouses have not used that income as marital property)
- Assets and/ or debts acquired by exchanging for nonmarital property
- Assets and/ or debts acquired through an inheritance
- Gifts received during marriage by a third party
- Liabilities incurred prior to the marriage
Marital property includes everything the couple acquired during the marriage, whether they were both present or not at the time of acquiring the property. This includes things like:
- Real and personal property held as tenants by the entireties, a special form of ownership provided to married couples.
- Gifts between spouses
- Insurance benefits
- Appreciation in value of nonmarital assets
- Pension benefits, social security income, interests in pending lawsuits, workers compensation benefits and stock options
What is considered when dividing assets?
Florida courts start with a 50/50 split, but the courts and judges have ample room for discretion to determine what is actually fair. The following factors are considered:
- Each spouse’s financial situation, such as his or her income and earning potential
- Each spouse’s financial situation after the divorce is finalized
- How long the marriage lasted
- Any income or property brought into the marriage by each spouse
Because Florida courts can consider several other factors to determine what is fair, it is best to try and settle such matters outside of court with an experienced divorce attorney such as Stephen H. Butter. Mr. Butter has dedicated more than 50 years to South Florida family law! Call him directly at (305) 333-7159.