When couples who live in central Florida decide to end their marriages, one of their biggest concerns is the division of property. Many worry about being impoverished by an order that unfairly splits their assets and "gives everything" to the other person. An understanding of the basic mechanisms of property division in a divorce case in Florida can rebut this unrealistic assumption and help both parties make a sound judgment about whether to proceed with the divorce.
Florida's laws about property division make it an "equitable distribution" state. Unlike California and other states that use the concept of "community property" to divide marital assets, Florida lets the court make an equitable distribution of the couple's assets. The court is directed to begin with the premise that the property distribution must be equal, that is, each spouse gets one-half of the assets. However, the statute contains an important qualification: the court may reject an equal division of property if "there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors."
Marital assets and liabilities include all property and assets acquired and debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage. The statute spells out a number of factors that can be considered by the court in dividing the couple's assets. These factors include:
- The contribution to the marriage made by each spouse;
- The economic circumstances of the parties;
- The duration of the marriage;
- Whether either spouse interrupted a career or education; and
- The extent of any contribution by one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
The list of factors ends with the catch-all "any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties." For couples with substantial assets or couples who have been married for a significant length of time, the identification of personal and marital assets and liabilities can be a complex process. The right information can provide invaluable assistance in working through the property division issues.