Three-Step Property Divisions in St. Lucie Divorces
Florida is an equitable distribution state. All marital property, including both assets and debts, must be divided in such a way that the divorce is not an unfair financial burden for either party. That rule is extremely subjective. So, as outlined below, Florida law sets out a number of property division factors.
But before Port St. Lucie divorce attorneys attempt to divide marital property according to these factors, they must first determine if the property should be divided at all, and how much it is worth.
The general rule seems simple enough. If the party acquired the debt or asset before the marriage or by gift, it is nonmarital property. Everything else is marital property. But for practical purposes, this rule is often complex. Largely for this reason, property division is usually either the simplest part of a divorce, or it is the most complex part.
Commingling is often an issue. Assume Wife uses money from her paycheck, which is a marital asset, to make payments on student loans she took out before the marriage (nonmarital debt). Probably unintentionally, she has mixed marital and nonmarital property. So, Husband may be entitled to a share of the marital assets Wife used to pay the nonmarital debt.
Classification issues may be even more complicated. Assume Husband’s uncle left him a rent house, and Wife used a monetary gift from her parents to fix up the house. Depending on other facts, the house could be marital property, Wife’s nonmarital property, or Husband’s nonmarital property. The same thing applies to future rents. They could belong to either or both spouses.
Normally, only the economic value matters. Some marital assets, like a retirement account, may have a substantial emotional value as well. But for these purposes, the emotional value does not count.
In commingling cases, valuing marital and nonmarital property can be time-consuming. Normally, attorneys must partner with forensic accountants, real estate appraisers, or other professionals to resolve these matters. Cost-benefit analysis is important here. Sometimes, especially given the pure financial value, a particular asset is not worth fighting for.
Premarital agreements make this process much easier. These pacts allow the parties to make decisions about who owns what and how property will be divided upon divorce. Especially since Florida lawmakers recently adopted the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act, if you have been married before, you should at least consider a prenup.
As mentioned, Florida law sets out several factors to help attorneys craft property settlements which equitably divide property. Some of these factors include:
- Length of the marriage,
- Relative economic circumstances of the spouses,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage, and
- Dissipation (waste of assets).
Dissipation is often related to fault in the breakup of the marriage. If Husband spent $10,000 on gifts for girlfriends, Wife may be entitled to an equitable share of that money.
Special division rules often apply in military divorces, especially with regard to military retirement accounts and noncash benefits, like PX privileges.
Connect with a Dedicated Lawyer
Divorce property division matters are often complex. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. After-hours visits are available.