Florida uses an equitable distribution of property model when dividing marital property, which is highly dependent the judge’s discretion.
While there are many details that must be negotiated in a divorce settlement, property division may be one of the most complicated. Separating property that a couple has amassed over several years of marriage can be difficult, especially when someone has a strong tie to an item or property. Some couples may be able to civilly discuss the terms of their property division without use of the court system. However, there are some situations where the decision of who gets what in a divorce is left in the hands of a Florida court-appointed judge.
Florida uses an equitable distribution of property model when dividing up assets in a divorce case. The court-appointed judge will divide the property and assets based upon what he or she deems fair and just. Often times, the judge will consider several different factors involved in the case before making a final decision. According to Florida statutes, these factors include the following:
- The income and expenses of both parties
- The employment status of each party, as well as their education, skill set and earning potential
- In what way each party contributed to the marriage, including taking care of the kids and supporting the spouse while he or she got an education or pursued a career
- How long the marriage lasted
If there are any children involved in the divorce, the judge will often make a decision based on the best interest of the kids. This includes awarding the primary house to the custodial parent. The judge assigned to the case is prompted to make a decision based on what is fair. Yet, this may not always equate to be an equal division of property.
Before any property and assets can be divided, the court must determine which property is separate and which is considered marital property. Separate property is generally not eligible for distribution in a divorce case, and may remain with the original owner. Any property or assets that a spouse owned prior to the marriage may be considered separate property. A gift or inheritance that was given to either party before, during or after the marriage is also separate in most cases. If separate property or assets are commingled with marital property, then the property may be viewed as marital and therefore eligible for division. For example, an inheritance that is deposited into a joint bank account may become marital.
Marital property includes everything that was accumulated during the course of the marriage. This includes 401k plans, pensions, stocks, houses, cars, artwork, jewelry and even Social Security benefits.
When going through the divorce process, it may be best to partner with an attorney who understands how property division works. It can be hard to make vital decisions during such an emotional time, and an attorney may help to ensure you are getting what you deserve in the divorce settlement.