Classifying and Dividing Marital Property in a Florida Divorce
In almost all cases, marital property division is either the easiest or most complex portion of a marriage dissolution action. Generally, there is no in-between.
If the marriage only lasted a few years and the couple had no assets, property division is usually a straightforward matter, simply because there are basically no issues in this area.
But if the marriage lasted longer than a few years and/or the couple has a house, retirement account, or any other financial asset, this part of the process could be expensive and time-consuming. That’s especially true if the couple did not have a premarital agreement.
Over the years, property becomes commingled. Individual debts become joint responsibilities, and separately-owned assets become collectively-owned assets. Consider the following examples.
Before the marriage, Husband borrowed money to get through school. He is still paying off these loans when the couple got married, and he continues using money from his paycheck to make these payments. But after the marriage, the money from his paycheck became marital property which he used to pay non-marital debts. Therefore, Wife could be entitled to a share of the money he paid.
Wife inherited a very old grandfather clock, which was in very poor condition. Husband spent hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars, gradually restoring the clock, which became very valuable. Depending on the facts, the new-and-improved clock could legally be Wife’s non-marital property, Husband’s non-marital property, or marital property which the two of them must divide.
On a related note, property division is not necessarily just a numerical exercise. Many assets, such as retirement accounts, have an emotional value as well as a financial value.
Division of Marital Property
The final marital property division must not be an unfair financial burden on either party. This principle is rather subjective and also rather difficult to define. So, Florida law sets forth some factors to consider. Some major ones include:
- Length of the Marriage: This factor is more prevalent in alimony matters, but it is also relevant in property division matters. The longer the marriage lasted, the more each party contributed from a financial and nonfinancial standpoint, at least theoretically.
- Economic Outlook for Each Spouse: Statistically, divorced women are more likely to live in poverty than divorced men. Of course, that’s not true in every case.
- Dissipation (Waste) of Assets: The dissipation rule is a back door which allows marital fault to enter the property division equation. If Wife spent $10,000 on gifts for boyfriends, Husband may be entitled to a share of that money.
- Economic Ability: Young, healthy, and well-educated people with solid employment backgrounds can usually earn more money than old, sickly, or poorly-educated people with spotty employment backgrounds.
Many times, attorneys arrange offsets in property division matters. Let’s return to the grandfather clock example above. If Husband is entitled to a share of the clock, and he probably is, Wife might agree to take less alimony in exchange for exclusive rights to the clock.
Connect with an Assertive Lawyer
Divorce property division usually requires a great deal of skill. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie divorce lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.