Written By: Lenorae Atter, Attorney
When going through a divorce in Florida, it is often difficult to think about separating the things that have been accumulated during the marriage. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I am often asked how items such as the house, cars, debts, retirements and alike will be divided. Also, divorce attorneys are challenged with the ever-popular issue of the smaller, more emotionally meaningful items like furnishings, gifts, awards, collectibles, etc. The division of assets and debts is not always easy, but Florida Statute 61.075 provides that the division should be equitable, meaning that each party has equal division of all assets and liabilities (e.g. debts). It is best to speak with a divorce or family law attorney to find out your rights and options when going through a divorce in Florida.
Equitable distribution in Florida is designed to make it where the parties are able to fairly take from the marriage since they collected the items together over the course of marriage. The Statute provides specifics for the division of nonmarital assets/debts (e.g. those purchased or accumulated prior to the date of the marriage) and marital assets/debts (e.g. collected during the marriage). The court should first establish what is nonmarital and separate those items from the marital property. The parties can do this individually before going to court and can reach an agreement on what is actually marital property before entering the court for a final hearing or trial. When going through a divorce, it is a good idea to make a list of all of your property and make a list of what is marital and what is nonmarital, share that list with your attorney and your attorney can then share that with your spouse’s lawyer.
Once a list of marital items has been developed, the Court is responsible for dividing the marital property equally. The equal distribution of marital assets is based on value of the property. Since the debts are also equally distributed, there are often give-and-take of assets value versus the debts in order to reach an equal resolution, especially since debts will be based on ability to pay as well as equal distribution. Given that parties often have a disparity in their incomes, and other circumstances may arise to give the Court reason to unequally distribute property, the Court may consider the following factors when distributing marital property and debts in accordance with Florida Statute 61.075(1):
(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, free from any claim or interference by the other party.