In dissolution of marriage (commonly referred to as divorce) cases in Florida, the concept of equitable distribution is utilized as opposed to community property when distributing assets and liabilities. Equitable means fair not equal. The first step in the equitable distribution process is to identify all assets and liabilities of the spouses. Then those assets and liabilities are characterized as either marital, non-marital or a hybrid of both. If an asset or liability is clearly non-marital, then it is set aside to the owner spouse and not included in the marital estate nor the distribution process.
The typical non-marital assets I see in my practice are homes, pensions or other assets owned by one spouse prior to the marriage or an inheritance received by one the spouses during the marriage. If the spouse with the non-marital asset co-titles it with his or her spouse or commingles it with marital assets, then the non-marital asset may very well “transmutate” into a marital asset under to Florida’s equitable distribution laws.
Some assets have both a marital and non-marital component to them. If one spouse, for example, worked for the Florida Retirement System as a teacher or other state employee before the marriage and continued in that employment during the marriage, then the court would do a calculation and distribute 50% of the marital component of the pension to the non-employee spouse and the other 50% as well as 100% of the non-marital component to the employee spouse.
After determining what assets and liabilities belong in the marital estate and each is assigned a value, the court will typically distribute them to the parties so that each party gets 50% of the equity in the estate. Rarely will the court simply order everything sold and split. If, for example, one spouse lives in the marital home with the children, then that spouse more likely than not will receive that home. Similarly, if one of the spouses owns a business or professional practice, that spouse would receive said asset. The other spouse in either situation would be distributed some other asset or payments in return for his or her 50% interest in the home or business.
I’ve been practicing divorce and family law for almost 30 years now and have identified, characterized and valued every asset imaginable. Whether you have a professional practice, pension, 401K, large tree farm, stock options or just won the lottery, I have the experience and expertise to help. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at my office in Daytona Beach, Florida at 386-257-1222.