This week, we’re examining Florida’s standard for contested property division in divorce: equitable distribution.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Equitable distribution is a legal principle followed by most states (including Florida). It helps assure that assets and liabilities acquired by a couple during a marriage are distributed equitably (fairly) during a divorce.
Equitable distribution states are different from those that use community property standards to divide assets following a divorce.
In Community Property states, property and liabilities acquired by a couple during marriage is considered jointly owned, regardless of each individual’s contributions to the purchase or how the purchase is titled.
There are currently 9 states that use community property law: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Each of these states has unique caveats in their community property statutes.
If you and your ex-spouse have a previously agreed-upon plan for asset and liability distribution, equitable distribution statutes will not apply to your divorce proceedings. The court applies equitable distribution only when assets and liabilities cannot not be negotiated by a divorcing couple independently.
What Are the Tenets of Equitable Distribution?
Under Florida’s Equitable Distribution Statute in Chapter 61, the court begins with the premise that distribution of assets and liabilities in the dissolution of a marriage should be equal among involved parties.
The court then looks at a vast number of relevant factors that can influence the way assets and liabilities are distributed. The goal is to ensure that distribution is fair (while not necessarily equal).
The first 8 factors influencing equitable distribution in dissolution of marriage, listed in Chapter 61, Section 075 of the Florida Statutes, are as follows:
(a) The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
(b) The economic circumstances of the parties.
(c) The duration of the marriage.
(d) Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.
(e) The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
(f) 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.
(g) 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 nonmarital assets of the parties.
(h) 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. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
Explore the remainder of the factors influencing court decisions in equitable distribution divorce cases here.
What is Marital Waste in Florida Divorce Law?
It’s important to remember that the court can consider one spouse’s irresponsible financial behavior when dividing property and debt obligations.
Marital waste is described in the Chapter 61, Section 075 statute as “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.”
If your ex-spouse intentionally depleted or squandered marital financial assets (and your attorney can prove it), the court may award you a more favorable property allocation in divorce proceedings.
Find a Florida Divorce Attorney Today
Because equitable distribution proceedings can get messy, it’s important to have knowledgeable representation on your side.
Laura Spencer Coleman has nearly 20 years of experience representing clients in divorce cases in Florida. Contact our law offices today to learn more about our divorce attorney services.