Property division is one of the most defining aspects of divorce. It can also be one of most hotly contested issues that gives rise to disputes. If you are considering divorce, understanding how property division works in the state of Florida is vital to creating reasonable expectations, protecting your rights, and ensuring you get your fair share.
At Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC, our Boca Raton divorce attorneys draw from over 75 years of collective experience and the insight of Board Certified Specialists in Marital & Family Law to help clients navigate all issues involved in their cases, including the division of marital property.
Under Florida law, only marital property is subject to division during a divorce. Marital property is defined as any asset or debt acquired by either spouse during the course of a marriage – even if the property or debt is tilted in only one spouse’s name (such as in the case of a vehicle). During divorce, marital property is subject to equitable distribution, which means marital assets and debts will be equitably or fairly divided, not necessarily equally.
Common examples of marital property subject to division in Florida divorces include:
- Bank accounts
- Family home
- Income properties or vacation homes (the total value if purchased during a marriage, or the increase in value if purchased by one spouse prior to marriage)
- Retirement benefits
- Special collections or antiques
- Stocks and bonds
- Credit card debt and other liabilities
These assets and debts are carefully accounted for during divorce, which may require valuation in cases involving homes and properties, businesses, stocks and bonds, special collections, overseas investments, oil or gas interests, and other complex assets. In addition to challenges involving valuation, property division can also be complicated when property that was once separate is comingled with marital funds. Generally, property is separate if:
- One spouse owned the asset prior to marriage
- The asset was acquired during a marriage as a gift or inheritance
- Certain assets or debts are defined as separate property in a prenuptial agreement
Defining what is marital and separate property during divorce can be challenging, as separate property can be made into marital property in various ways. Examples include:
- Changing the title of separate property to joint ownership
- increases in value of separate property if it resulted from the contribution of marital funds or the efforts of either spouse (i.e. working in a family business or maintaining a home)
- Comingling separate property (including gifts) with marital property (i.e. paying a separate property mortgage with marital earnings, depositing marital funds into a separate property bank account established before marriage, etc.)
In some cases, meticulous investigation, review of financial records, and forensic accounting will be needed to trace any source of funds to prove whether certain assets are separate property or marital property. Given the difficulties involved, as well as the fact that the outcome of any property division matter can have a long-term impact on either spouse, these matters demand the attention of experienced attorneys.
Our legal team at Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC is available to help address all property division issues, including those involving unique and complex assets and cases involving high net worth. We also have the experience and insight to help spouses arrive at compromises over dividing property, either through negotiations or mediation (our team includes a Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator). Should disagreement, disputes, and hostility prevent amicable agreements, we have the experience and resources to aggressively defend our client’s rights and interests through litigation, which will involve judges weighing our arguments with other relevant factors, such as the length of a marriage and each spouse’s financial situation, earning potential, and contributions, among others.
If you wish to discuss property division and your divorce personally with a member of our team, contact us to request an initial consultation.