There are several factors that will affect the outcome of your divorce, from the length of your marriage, each of your incomes and assets, and the involvement of children. One important factor, however, will play a large role in the outcome of the distribution of your marital assets. That factor is the location of your divorce. Each state has its own unique set of rules governing the division of assets in the event of a divorce. A court in Florida, for instance, will apply different guidelines in dividing assets than a court in Arizona. There are two main categories of rules for the division of assets in the United States: community property and equitable distribution. Here is a look at these two systems:
The community property regime is not as widely applied today as is equitable division. It is used in the following nine states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, couples in Alaska are allowed to opt into a community property system if they so choose. The community property regime has its origins in Spanish law, which accounts for its predominate use in the southwestern states.
In a community property state, both spouses are considered equal owners of all marital assets. As a general rule, whatever each spouse acquires or earns during the marriage is considered to be owned by both parties, regardless of who actually earned it or whose name is on the title. In the event of a divorce, these assets are automatically divided 50-50, with some state specific exceptions. Judges in the nine community property states will not usually take into account a spouse’s age, health, or employment prospects in dividing property, although these factors will be addressed in determining alimony. Community property states traditionally have generous alimony laws that tend to make up for the fact that the division of assets is not done on an individualized needs basis.
The system of equitable distribution is the most popular division of assets regime and is used in the 41 states not enumerated above. Florida is an equitable distribution state. In an equitable distribution state like Florida, during a divorce, assets are allocated to each spouse on the basis of fairness. Courts will take into account the circumstance of each individual spouse and divide accordingly. Some factors considered include:
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marital property
- Non-financial contributions to the family, such as stability
- The duration of the marriage
- A spouse’s contributions to the training or education of the other spouse which resulted in that spouse’s increasing earning capacity
- Waste or disposal of marital assets
- The value of non-marital assets, such as a separate inheritance
- The market value of the assets
- Tax consequences arising from division
- Each parties need for financial security
As is clear from these factors, equitable distribution does not always mean equal. Comparing the two systems, you can see how the outcome of your divorce may vary significantly depending upon the state you are divorced in.
If you are interested in learning more about your legal options regarding your Florida divorce, contact the experienced Florida Divorce Attorneys at the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. to schedule your one hour consultation. We serve family law clients throughout West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Wellington, Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Martin County areas. Contact us today at (561) 429-3924, or via email at [email protected].