Classifying and Dividing Property in a Florida Divorce
Like most other jurisdictions, the Sunshine State is an equitable division jurisdiction. A divorce property settlement must divide property in such a way that the divorce is not an unfair financial burden for either spouse.
Property division begins with property classification. On its face, Florida’s property classification rule is rather straightforward. Debts or assets acquired before the marriage or by gift are nonmarital property; everything else is marital property. But this rule is sometimes difficult to apply. More on that below.
Generally, a Port St. Lucie divorce attorney is able to settle property division matters out of court, even if the issues are rather complex. These resolutions reduce legal fees, give participants more control over the outcome, and usually increase voluntary compliance with court orders.
The average first marriage which ends in divorce lasts a little over eight years. During that time, these couples frequently commingle their property. Such commingling makes it difficult to classify property as marital or nonmarital.
Assume Wife pays off her $20,000 student loan (nonmarital debt) with money from her paycheck (marital asset). If that happens, Husband might be entitled to reimbursement for his share of the lost marital funds, which would probably be $10,000.
Making things even more complex, outright money transfers are rare in these cases. Instead, Wife might agree to give Husband a larger share of her retirement account.
Other commingling examples are even more intricate. Assume Wife acquired a rental house before the marriage, and Husband manages and improves the property without compensation. Based on all the facts, when the couple divorces, the house and all prior and future rents could be Wife’s nonmarital property. Husband’s nonmarital property, or marital property subject to division.
Most attorneys partner with outside professionals, like forensic accountants, in complex situations like these.
“Equitable” is a rather subjective word that usually, but does not always, mean equal. So, Florida law sets forth a number of factors to determine what is equitable in certain situations. Some of these factors include:
- Length of the Marriage: If the marriage lasted more than ten years, the spouses became accustomed to a certain standard of living. Divorce usually lowers the standard of living, but an equitable divorce should keep things on an even keel.
- Noneconomic Contributions to the Marriage: This factor, which is also relevant in spousal support determinations, is often significant if one spouse gave up career advancement to become a caregiver.
- Custody of Minor Children: This factor often affects the house. Generally, it’s in the best interests of the children for them to remain in the family home. So, rather than sell the house and divide the proceeds, the residential parent often receives outright title to the home.
- Relative Economic Circumstances: Typically, young, healthy, and well-educated people have higher earning potentials than persons without these qualities. If there is a significant disparity between the spouses, a disproportionate division might be appropriate.
The judge also has broad discretion to consider any other factors which might be relevant to an equitable property division.
Count on an Experienced Lawyer
Divorce property division is often quite complex. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters throughout the Treasure Coast area.