Top Five Property Division Factors in the Sunshine State
Like most other jurisdictions, Florida is an equitable division state. Marital property must be divided in such a way that the divorce is not an unfair financial burden on either party. There is a presumption that a 50-50 division satisfies this requirement, but that’s only a presumption.
If there is substantial evidence of inequality, most Treasure Coast judges will order an uneven property division to compensate the needy spouse. Some key property division factors are outlined below.
A Port St. Lucie divorce attorney should be mindful of these factors during court hearings and during settlement negotiations. Legal arguments which revolve around key factors usually resonate with the judge. And, the judge will probably not approve a settlement agreement which does not uphold at least most of these factors.
Custody of Minor Children
Frequently, equitable property division concerns overlap with the best interests of the children. The marital home is a good example of this interplay.
It’s not always a good idea to sell the marital home and divide the proceeds. For example, the market might be depressed or the spouses might be unable to agree on a price. Moreover, it’s generally in the best interests of the children for them to remain in the family home. As a result, many divorce decrees award the house to the residential parent, at least as long as the children are under 18.
Dissipation (Waste) of Marital Assets
Generally, adultery or other fault in the breakup of the marriage is not relevant in Florida property division disputes. The dissipation rule opens a back door in these situations.
Assume Wife spent $10,000 on gifts to various boyfriends. If she used marital property, such as money from her paycheck, to buy these gifts, Husband might be entitled to reimbursement for his community share, which in this case would probably be $5,000. Other examples include the intentional destruction of marital property.
Special rules apply in dissipation cases. For example, the alleged dissipation must have occurred within two years of the date of the divorce petition.
Length of the Marriage
This factor is rarely dispositive, but it can have a significant bearing on the final property distribution.
If the marriage lasted a long time, it’s assumed that both spouses made substantial economic and noneconomic contributions. Furthermore, both spouses became accustomed to a certain standard of living. If one spouse is at a significant financial disadvantage for whatever reason, that spouse might be entitled to a disproportionate distribution.
The “Homemaker” Factor
Generally, this factor is either one of the most important considerations in the property division, or it is almost completely irrelevant.
If one spouse gave up career advancement opportunities to become a caregiver, that spouse might be entitled to a disproportionate distribution. The spouse’s case is even stronger if the spouse directly contributed to the other spouse’s educational or personal career opportunity (e.g. watching the children while the other spouse went to medical school).
Commonly, if the spouses own a business, they sell it and divide the proceeds when they divorce. That’s not always the best approach. Perhaps the business is best kept in the family, or perhaps the economic climate is poor and the business’ value is artificially low.
In cases like these, it might be best for one spouse to keep outright control of the business. Frequently, attorneys arrange for an offset in these situations. For example, Wife might accept slightly higher alimony payments if Husband retains the family business.
Reach Out to an Experienced Lawyer
Marital property must be divided consistently with complex state laws. 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.