One of the most significant issues addressed during Florida divorce is equitable distribution. After being married to someone for many years, almost everything is shared between spouses. In fact, most courts perceive the assets and property of a married individual as communal assets. Divorce lawyers in Boca Raton can help you understand how assets and property are accounted, evaluated and distributed during divorce.
Factors Governing Equitable Distribution
Equitable distribution is the technical term used to describe the legal process of judicial division of goods, resources, rights and obligations. It is most applicable to divorce proceedings. Many people mistakenly believe that equitable distribution results in a 50/50 split. However, this is not true. In fact, during most divorces, property is distributed based on the age, health, child rearing abilities, unique needs, level of income, type of employment, skills, level of education and expenditures of each individual in the marriage. The goal is not to divide property between spouses equally. The goal is to divide property between spouses equitably. As such, a fair distribution of property allows each individual with enough resources to transition into a healthy and stable lifestyle after a divorce.
A Boca Raton, FL divorce lawyer can provide further insight on how resources such as marital assets, non-marital assets, debts, property and other forms of assets are calculated and considered during divorce.
Marital Assets vs. Non-Marital Assets
During a divorce, courts typically review two types of property: marital assets and nonmarital assets when determining how funds should be distributed. Marital assets refers to any and all forms of property that is acquired during the marriage (and sometimes during the relationship before the marriage if the intent was to marry). As a result, marital assets are accounted for and distributed between the spouses.
Meanwhile, non-marital assets are not permissible forms of property to be distributed during divorce. Any property that is bought or acquired before the marriage, property that is inherited as a gift to one spouse, or property that is specifically indicated as indivisible and/or belonging to one individual (i.e. prenuptial/postnuptial agreements) are considered non-marital assets. These assets are exempt from distribution between spouses.
To understand how your property will be distributed and what qualifies as marital and nonmarital assets, it is wise to contact a Boca Raton divorce attorney. Every divorce is different. Depending on the unique circumstances of the marriage and the grounds for divorce, the line between marital assets and non-marital assets is often thin and blurred.
Debt is divided during divorce according to its classification as either marital or nonmarital property. There is individual debt and there is joint debt. Individual debt may be seen through credit cards, student loans and car payments. However, if a spouse cosigns for his/her partner on any type of account, then such debt becomes joint debt. Further, any debt that is accumulated during the marriage and is under the names of both spouses (i.e. mortgages), is considered marital debt. In order to avoid complications, it is best to pay off as much as your debt as possible before divorce proceedings begin.
When accessing how property will be distributed during divorce, several factors are weighed. A judge may consider any of the following:
- The total length of the marriage
- The economic state of each spouse
- Each spouse’s individual contributions and/or roles in the marriage
- The education level and skills of each spouse
- Any relevant breaks in a spouse’s professional training/education
- Any significant contributions to the other partner’s professional training/education
- Evidence of the advancement, increase and/or destruction of marital assets
Once these factors are considered, a judge will determine how the property will be distributed. It may be decided that one spouse is allowed to live in the property permanently. Or, it may be decided that the property will be solely given to one individual and other assets may be given to the other spouse to compensate. In other cases, a judge may require that the divorcing spouses sell the property and share the profit earned. The way that property is divided varies, but a Boca Raton, FL divorce lawyer can make the process much simpler by helping to predict the odds.
Valuation of Assets
Once all forms of property are identified, the total net worth or market value of assets (especially businesses) are determined. The methods in which assets are valued vary and it is best to rely on the experience of a divorce lawyer in Boca Raton, FL.
Unequal distributions of assets are common during divorce because the goal is to divide property evenly. There are many ways that govern the route that a judge may take when granting the terms and conditions of divorce, as aforementioned. Spouses should be rest assured that if they reveal all forms of assets, property, debt and liabilities, then a fair settlement will be reached.
Wasting/Dissipation of Assets
The waste, dissipation, mismanagement, improper usage, misrepresentation or frivolous spending of assets by a spouse is a type of behavior that is considered during divorce when determining equitable distribution. Examples of dissipation of assets may be seen in the form of gambling, excessive gifts provided to a spouse’s mistress/lover and/or their children, criminal and/or legal fees, business losses and/or failed payments resulting in greater losses (i.e. foreclosures). Strong emphasis is placed on a spouse’s intent. In other words, it must be proven in a court of law that a spouse wasted/dissipated assets for a malignant purposes.
Divorce Lawyers in Boca Raton, FL
At the Law Offices of Theodore Enfield, P.A., our experienced Boca Raton, FL divorce attorneys understand the ins and outs of equitable distribution. Not only will we guide you through the judicial process, but we will ensure that you are aware of your rights and responsibilities during divorce. Allow our Boca Raton family divorce law firm to represent you during this crucial period. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.