Divorce can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s time to divide your marital property with your ex-spouse. It can be an emotional, stressful process to decide what assets are worth fighting for and which you’re willing to let go. However, you can make it easier by understanding Florida laws on asset division and divorce.
When you know what to expect from the process, you can make informed decisions, avoid common mistakes, and handle contested assets with less confusion. Keep reading to learn why asset division matters, what Florida laws say about it, and how to approach contested assets the right way.
What Is Asset Division?
Asset division is the process of dividing all of the assets a couple has acquired during their marriage. Legally married couples are considered to share ownership of money, property, and debts either spouse acquires or creates while the marriage continues.
Items that need to be divided during a divorce include:
- Job income
- Investments and gains
- Retirement funds and pensions
- Intellectual property and royalties
- Homes and mortgages
- Art and other collections
This is intended to protect lower-earning partners in the case of a divorce. By declaring that both spouses own part of all marital property, Florida law prevents situations like a stay-at-home parent being left destitute after a split. It is assumed that both partners contribute to the relationship, even if the financial contribution is not equal. Dividing the marital property fairly respects the work both parties have done for their household.
Florida’s Divorce Asset Division Laws
Florida is an equitable distribution state. While marital property must be divided in a divorce, it must be divided fairly, not necessarily equally. This is an important distinction. Florida law states that “the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.”
The second half of that clause allows spouses to pursue unequal but equitable divisions of their marital property. Justifications for receiving more than 50% of the marital estate include:
- Greater contribution to marital property: If one party contributes more to the marital assets than the other, they may be granted a larger share of the marital estate. This often occurs when one party used their separate property to assist with the purchase of a marital asset, such as buying a home with an inheritance.
- Disability or disparity in financial conditions: If the court determines that one spouse will struggle more to support themselves after the marriage, it may award that party a larger share of the marital assets.
- Misconduct: If one spouse’s misconduct depletes the couple’s joint assets, the court may award the other party a more significant share to account for these losses.
- Intentional squandering of assets: Similarly, if one spouse wastes money on purpose at the expense of their partner, the court may award their partner more of the remaining items. Examples include accruing a large amount of credit card debt behind their spouse’s back or giving away property to hurt their spouse.
How to Handle Contested Assets in Florida Divorces
Many couples find that there are specific items that they both want to keep after their divorce. These contested assets can cause a divorce to take significantly longer to resolve. To minimize these issues, you can approach contested assets with the following strategies:
- Trade assets. If your spouse is interested in multiple assets, you may be able to negotiate with them. Consider offering an asset trade, such as granting them full ownership of a pension in exchange for giving you the rights to the family home.
- Buy out your spouse. If a trade isn’t possible, consider buying them out instead. Offer them funds equivalent to their share of the joint asset, so they don’t push to have the asset sold and the proceeds split.
- Have your attorney negotiate on your behalf. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t force yourself to negotiate directly. Your attorney can help you determine the appropriate strategy to negotiate with your spouse for the items you want to retain after your divorce.
Work with Expert Florida Divorce Lawyers
The most effective way to accomplish a fair asset division is by working with an experienced divorce lawyer. At Bergman Family Law, we have years of experience helping Florida residents handle their divorce and the division of assets efficiently and without stress. Learn more about how we can help you divide your marital property equitably by contacting us for a free online consultation today.