24 Dec How Property is Divided in Florida Divorces
Each state has its own rules about how property is handled and divided in a divorce. Nine states, known as community property states, have everything incurred by either spouse during marriage divided equally. Other states divide everything “fairly” in a process called equitable distribution of property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means a judge decides what is fair in regard to the marital property. The judge starts with the goal of equal division but in reality this may look like 49/51, 40/60, or 30/70.
It is common for a couple facing divorce to also have financial problems. Money is the number one thing that couples disagree about, and money-related marital stress is a top reason cited for filing for divorce. If there is one asset (a home) and multiple debts and liabilities, it may seem impossible for one party to buy out the other party, especially if the party continuing to occupy the property cannot qualify or afford to get a loan. There are options to avoid foreclosure, and keep a home. These may include bankruptcy, negotiating a respite with your bank, or a loan assumption. Every situation is different. To discuss your options to divorce in Polk County, Florida, and keep a residence, contact Sara Jones Law, P.A.
Sorting out Marital and Non-Marital Assets
The first part of property distribution in a Florida divorce is inventorying all assets and determining which are marital and which are non-marital.The court first establishes a “cut-off” date in which assets and liabilities are decided as marital assets. This is either:
- The earliest of the date the parties enter into a valid separation agreement
- The date of the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage
- Another date jointly agreed to by both parties.
Divorce is painful for many people with the distribution of property, an especially painful part, filled with many points of disagreement. However, if parties are able to agree on certain points, especially related to the division of property, it can simplify the process and lower costs.
What Does a Judge Consider in Dividing Property?
Fla. Stat. § 61.075(1) specifically instructs what factors the judge should consider in deciding if assets should be distributed less than equally. These factors include:
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage (finances, care and education of children, transportation, homemaker duties, etc.)
- Each spouse’s economic circumstances
- Contribution to the other’s education or career
- Education and career of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- Assets kept free from other’s interference
- Maintaining family home for minor children (when financially feasible)
- Intentional destruction or waste of marital assets within 2 years of filing the petition.
The last point, intentional destruction or waste of marital assets, can cover one spouses’ wasteful spending pursuing adulterous affairs. The “grieving” spouse will be reimbursed for funds spent on dining out, trips, gifts, or other spending the other spouse incurred while cheating.
Examples of Marital Property
In a Florida divorce, the court divides the marital property and debt. Marital property is defined in Florida Statute 61.075:
- Assets acquired during the marriage
- Appreciation in value and enhancement of non-marital assets
- Interspousal gifts
- Non-marital property that has been titled jointly during the marriage.
The marital assets will need to be valued, and in some cases, an appraiser will need to be hired to value assets. Assets that might need to be included may include:
- Real estate
- Cars, RVs, and motorcycles
- Furniture and appliances
- Life insurance policies
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- CD accounts
- Tools, Equipment, Collectibles, and Antiques
Commingling non-marital assets can cause them to become marital property. For example, if your husband owned a home before marriage that you moved into, and then, he later took out a home equity loan for improvements, and added you to the title, the house may become marital property in this process. If the property then lost value and became underwater, this marital property would become a shared debt.
If you are considering a divorce in Florida, it is important to speak with an experienced Polk County divorce attorney as soon as possible, to ensure your rights, interests, and future are protected.
Unique Issues Gray Divorces – Older Couples
According to the AARP, Florida remains the number one state for retirees to move to, offering two big desirables: warm weather and low taxes. Getting divorced in older years is much more common than it was 50 years ago, as people are prioritizing their own happiness, no matter how few years may be left. Divorces involving older or elderly adults are known as gray divorces.
Rates of divorce and remarriage in later years are high in Florida. When people are already in retirement, there can be unique issues with health insurance benefits, retirement benefits, and military benefits. Some people in their 50s and 60s are supporting their own elderly parents, at significant cost. The financial outlook for two separate retirements can be much bleaker than one joint retirement.
When couples have been together for decades, sorting out property can be complicated, with almost every asset deemed to be marital property. In gray divorces, Florida may award durational alimony, equal to the length of the marriage itself. Life insurance may be required to support the financial burden of the spouse paying alimony. Typically, the older the person, the higher the premiums.
Getting the Best Outcome For Your Florida Divorce
In many divorces, no one truly “wins,” but there are always options, and solutions. Especially if finances are already strained with one household, two households may be even more strained. With your attorney, you can determine your goals for the division of assets in a divorce, which may be monthly financial support, retaining control of a shared business, or keeping a home. Given the complexities of divorce, you should not face your future alone. To discuss your rights and best chances of receiving an equitable distribution of property in your Florida divorce, contact Sara Jones Law, P.A. at (863) 455-4811 today.