Every state has its own rules for how property is split in a divorce. In most cases, equitable means equal division of assets and debts, but there are instances where the judge finds this to be unfair. So the property will instead be broken into portions based on a variety of factors, including the following:
• How long the two have been married
• The economic circumstances of both spouses
• Educational or career opportunity interruptions
• Contributions made to the marriage, parenting and homemaking by both parties
• Contributions made by one spouse to the other spouse’s educational or career opportunities
• Contributions to obtaining or increasing income
• Liabilities incurred by both parties that affected both marital and non-marital assets
• Contributions both parties made to improve marital and non-marital assets
• Intentional dissipation, depletion, waste or destruction of marital assets once the petition for divorce was filed or within two years before the petition was filed.
The court will also determine the complexity of dividing certain assets. For instance, if one spouse started a business, this would normally be considered a marital asset. However, if one of the spouses operated it, some judges will award the entire business to that spouse. The other spouse would instead get other property and money to compensate for the loss. The division of a marital business in a Florida divorce can be very difficult. Hiring a divorce lawyer in West Palm Beach can make this process simpler.
Another example is a family home – the court won’t divide this between the two spouses. Instead, the property would have to be sold and the proceeds would then be divided. The judge can also award one of the spouses to live in the marital home on a temporary basis, if that’s the most reasonable solution. This is particularly the case when there are children involved who are still in school.
In rare cases, the couple will agree on how to divide everything without the courts involvement. Others look for legal advice from a divorce lawyer in West Palm Beach, or seek out a mediator to help negotiate a settlement. When an agreement can’t be reached, the judge or arbitrator will make the decision.
Marital vs Non-Marital Property
The only assets and debts that are divided in a Florida divorce case are those considered to be marital. Marital assets include all the things both spouses obtained together and separately while married. This does include vested and nonvested benefits, funds or rights either of the parties have accrued while married, such as pensions, annuities, retirement, profit-sharing, insurance plans and deferred compensation.
Assets and debts are considered separate, or non-marital, when it was owned before the marriage, or if it was obtained as a gift or inheritance during marriage. This doesn’t include gifts given by the other spouse. Property is also considered separate in the following scenarios:
• A written agreement between both spouses that clarifies specific assets and debts as being separate property
• Income received from a non-marital property, unless both parties treated the income as marital property
• Items that were bought or exchanged using non-marital property
In the case where a property increases in value while the couple is married due to contributions made using marital funds or the efforts of the other spouse, the increase in value is considered marital property.
An example of this would be a business that was owned by one spouse prior to being married increased in value during the marriage. The value of the business before the marriage is considered non-marital, while the increased value would be marital property, which would be divided among the two.
There are also ways that non-marital property can be converted to marital property, such as by changing a title from individual to joint ownership. It’s also common for marital and non-marital properties to be mixed together, or commingled. This is sometimes done intentionally by both parties, while others do it without realizing it. For instance, making deposits into a bank account owned by one other spouse is considered commingling. The judge will have to decipher what property has been commingled in this case. Florida divorce can become very complicated, which is why it’s recommended to acquire the expertise of a divorce lawyer in West Palm Beach.