When marriages end, many issues must be decided; one of the biggest is the division of assets. Ideally, spouses would agree between themselves. Sometimes, agreement can be reached with the help of attorneys or a mediator.
But when they can’t agree, who gets what can become one of the most contentious issues in divorce. This can especially be so in a high-asset divorce where spouses may have high-value businesses, foreign investments, stock options, multiple homes, and numerous other complex assets, either individually or together.
Assets are divided in Florida divorces using the concept of equitable distribution. Debts are also subject to division.
Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of property and debts. Rather, judges decide how to divide assets and debts based on what is fair and equitable to both parties. They consider numerous factors as described in Florida Statute 61.075 including:
Judges may also take into account alimony, spousal support awards, and child support payments. Under the law, they can consider any factors they believe necessary for an equitable and just division.
Only marital property is subject to equitable distribution in divorce. Non-marital property, or separate property, is not divided. Prior to distributing assets, what is marital property and what is separate property must be determined.
Marital property generally includes anything acquired by either spouse or both spouses during the marriage. Separate property includes assets acquired before the marriage, property protected by valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, or inheritances or gifts made to one of the spouses.
Determining what is marital or separate property is not always that clear-cut. Assets owned before marriage may be considered marital rather than separate property if they are mingled together or a spouse has contributed to an asset’s increase in value. Sometimes only the percentage of the value increase will be considered marital property. Here are some examples of when separate property may be considered marital property:
Expanding on the home example, if one party owns a house before marriage and adds their spouse to the title, the home will become marital property. These are just a few scenarios. Every marriage and divorce will have its own unique concerns when it comes to marital versus separate property.
If debts were incurred during the marriage by either party or both spouses, they are considered marital debt and subject to equitable distribution. This includes loans and credit cards, even if they were in only one person’s name. Student loan debt incurred during marriage is even subject to being divided even if only one person went to school using student loans. Even gambling debt run up by one party could potentially be divided between both spouses in divorce.
Deciding who pays what debt can be a complex process. Judges will consider all the necessary factors to make what they consider fair debt division.
When a couple is going through divorce, they must be transparent about their assets, both marital and those that may be separate. They must be honest about their financial information.
Suppose they intentionally try to hide assets or understate the value of assets to keep them from being divided or to try and get a better outcome. If a person intentionally damages or destroys property to keep their spouse from getting it or a share of it, they can be held accountable. The same is true if they go on a spending spree in order to keep their spouse from sharing the asset.
Hiding, sabotaging, or dissipating assets to keep them from being divided or simply because a spouse is angry with the other is against the law. The spouse who does it will not be looked on favorably by the judge. They could end up having to turn the asset they tried to hide over to the other spouse. Or they could be made to pay the other spouse the value of the sabotaged property. They may be held in contempt of court or be charged with perjury or fraud, which could potentially result in jail time.
If you suspect your spouse may be hiding or sabotaging assets in your divorce, an astute Florida family lawyer can investigate to determine the truth.
Asset and debt division is a sensitive area of divorce. There may be specific property you wish to keep. Or you may be worried about being held responsible for your spouse’s significant debt. You stand a better chance of getting a satisfactory outcome with the help of a Florida family lawyer.
Our attorney at 941 Law Help is highly experienced in negotiating property division agreements in divorce. If resolving your asset division dispute outside of court is not possible, he has the trial prowess needed to advocate for your interests before the judge.