Deciding to end a marriage is a major decision for both spouses, as it is signaling the end of an emotional connection and a division of assets collected during married life. The state of Florida is an “equitable distribution” state which means the assets that were acquired during the marriage are considered marital and subject to equitable distribution between the parties. This does not mean that you are automatically going to lose your assets to your spouse, but if you have a complex portfolio of assets, then you will need an experienced divorce attorney in Jacksonville to represent you and your interests. Here is a look at how property division rules work in Florida:
How Marital Property and Debts are Divided in a Florida Divorce Case
The laws regarding the division of property in a Florida divorce are generally straightforward in that they require identifying marital and nonmarital assets and liabilities and then an equitable distribution of all marital assets and debts acquired or incurred during a marriage. Title of an asset or a liability is not decisive. Florida’s statutes for the division of marital property fall under Title VI, Chapter 61, subsection 61.075. The subsection states that all marital assets will be divided equitably amongst both spouses, unless there is a justification for unequal division. Not all assets can be equally divided, and both spouses can be considered equals when it comes to determining who pays the outstanding debts that were incurred during the marriage. These reasons are why it is important to retain a Jacksonville property division lawyer who will push to help you keep what is rightfully yours such as premarital assets or nonmarital assets, as well as not be held liable for debts you did not have a part in creating prior to the marriage or after the filing of a divorce.
When a divorce case is brought before a judge, the judge has to apply the laws as written to the distribution of assets and liabilities. The judge has the authority to determine if an asset was obtained prior to marriage, if it is a joint asset, or if the asset has become commingled. You can reduce the risk of losing an asset to a court-ordered decision by retaining a family law attorney in Jacksonville who knows how to apply Florida divorce laws to your case, and can negotiate an agreement as to which spouse owns specific assets.
Determining Who Owns What in a Divorce
The law recognizes that property, assets or debts that were obtained before the marriage are not necessarily considered marital property. Any assets or debts that were owned before the marriage are considered separate property. The opposing spouse cannot claim ownership of separate property or debts. However, an asset or property that was owned prior to the marriage, that then became commingled with the spouse or other marital property, may be subject to property division. The ownership of assets and liabilities in a marriage can become convoluted over time, and an experienced Jacksonville divorce or property division lawyer can help you identify your interests and retain your ownership. Here’s a look at how Florida courts determine ownership status of assets and liabilities:
- All assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage are considered marital property regardless of which spouse made the purchase or incurred a debt;
- Gifts given from one spouse to the other during the marriage are considered marital property;
- Assets and liabilities obtained before the marriage are not marital property;
- Retirement funds, insurance plans, pensions, annuities, and related financial accounts are marital assets if acquired or accrued during the marriage;
- Assets and liabilities laid out in a valid pre-nuptial agreement are considered separate property; and
- Income generated by a non-marital asset is viewed as non-marital property unless both spouses relied upon that income during the marriage.
Determining the Value of Marital Assets
Once it is identified as a marital asset, the next step is to determine their monetary value. Someone who has a complex portfolio of assets and finances is more likely to need outside opinions regarding their value. This is where a skilled family law attorney in Jacksonville can be of invaluable assistance, by understanding the process of valuing property at fair market value, gains and losses and how the court views property division. Some factors the court takes into consideration during the division of property include:
- Spousal contribution to the running of the household, and care and education of children
- Economic circumstances of each spouse
- How long the marriage lasted
- Interruption of personal careers or schooling of either spouse
- Contributions or support made by one spouse for the other
- Desirability of retaining any asset or interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice that’s free from claim by the other spouse
- Contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and/or production of income to the marital and non-marital assets
Call Parra Harris Law for Help with Your Divorce Today
You are more likely to need a divorce attorney in Jacksonville for assistance with your dissolution than you may realize. Give the law offices of Parra Harris a call today to learn more about how a divorce attorney can help you navigate the divorce process and protect your interests from start-to-finish. Parra Harris Law can help you with matters regarding divorce and family law in the state of Florida.