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Winston Law PA

Equitable Distribution of Assets and Debts

Another issue within many divorce proceedings is how property and debt should be divided between both parties. In the State of Florida, marital property is divided based on the concept of equitable distribution. This is much less clear cut than in some states that divide property 50/50. In Florida, marital property division begins with an assumption that assets and debts should be divided equally between both parties unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution. Florida Law has described the following as factors in the distribution of marital assets and liabilities:

• The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.

• The economic circumstances of the parties.

• The length of the marriage.

• Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.

• The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.

• The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.

• The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the non-marital assets of the parties.

• The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction.

• The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

• Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

The first step in the division of property is to determine which assets and debts are marital and which are non-marital.

Marital assets are any assets acquired during the marriage and marital debts are any debts incurred during the marriage. These may include houses, cars, stocks, bonds, pensions, retirement plans, annuities and businesses.

Non-Marital refers to any assets and debts acquired or incurred before the marriage. This may include property owned before the marriage, any gifts given to one spouse during the marriage, or any inheritances held by one spouse. Non-marital assets become marital if they are comingled with marital assets. For example, if one party owns a home before the marriage and after the marriage the family lives in that home, the value of the home or part of the value may become marital.

Determining which property is marital and non-marital can be a cause of disagreement between parties. One spouse can attempt to hide money and assets. Also, issues of comingling of funds may arise. Comingling is when non-marital funds have been mixed together with marital funds during the course of the marriage. Often this may require the aid of a forensic accountant. It is important to have a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to protect your property rights.

Once the marital assets and debts are determined they are each valued by the Court and distributed equally between the parties, unless there is a reason enumerated by statute for an unequal distribution.

If you or a loved one are considering divorce or are interested in more information, contact Winston Law, P.A. at
or (561) 670-9375.

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