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Florida’s Equitable Distribution Statute Gets An Overhaul

Rice Law Firm closely follows the changes in Florida law, each year, on many legal matters, including marital and family law, as shown from our previous blogs. As an update on the issue of equitable distribution in a dissolution of marriage case in the state of Florida, both chambers of the Florida legislature, during the recent 2024 Florida legislative session, approved some important changes to Florida Statute 61.075, which is referred to as the equitable distribution provision. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court must determine an equitable distribution of assets and liabilities between the spouses. The court first evaluates the assets and liabilities of the parties and determines which are “marital” and which are “non-marital.” Under Florida law, marital assets include:

– Assets and liabilities acquired and incurred during the marriage by either spouse or together as a marital couple;

-The enhancement of value and appreciation of non-marital assets due to the efforts of either spouse or the contribution of marital funds or other marital assets;

-Inter-spousal gifts during the marriage;

-All vested and non-vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, and other similar funds;

– All real property held as tenants by the entirety; and

– All personal property titled jointly by the parties as tenants by the entireties, regardless of whether it was acquired prior to the marriage.

The court must begin with the premise that the distribution of marital assets and liabilities should be equal, unless there is justification for an unequal distribution based on certain factors, provided by law. The strong presumption under Florida’s equitable distribution provision, though, is what we refer to as a ‘50/50′ split of any such marital assets or marital liabilities between the spouses. After establishing the list of assets and liabilities, the court must also identify each non-marital assets and liabilities and set those apart to the respective owner spouse, because non-marital assets and liabilities are not included in the equitable distribution process. One of the recent amendments by the Florida legislature was to clarify various aspects of the equitable distribution process. The bill clarifies, for example, what sort of circumstances justify an interim partial distribution and provides a list of factors for the court to use in making a determination on whether good cause exists to make an interim partial distribution. Specifically, the bill provides that when determining whether extraordinary circumstances, and therefore good cause, exist for an interim partial distribution, the court must consider the need to:

-Prevent the loss of important assets or defaults on marital debts.

-Pay for dependent child-related expenses.

-Pay for dissolution of marriage proceeding-related expenses, including attorney fees.

-Address any other circumstances justifying entry of an order for interim partial distribution.

With respect to the statutory list of marital assets and liabilities, the bill does the

following:

-Clarifies that interspousal gifts of real property must be made consistent with statutory real estate conveyance requirements (must be in writing).

-Provides that joinder of a spouse in the execution of a deed conveying homestead real property to a third party does not change the property’s character, or proceeds from its sale, to marital property.

-Includes marital interests in a closely held business as marital assets, and prescribes a method for establishing the value of those interests.

-The enterprise goodwill in a closely held business as a marital asset, which should be distributed between the parties.

With respect to the statutory list of non-marital assets and liabilities, the bill includes real property acquired separately by either spouse by non-interspousal gift, bequest, devise, or descent, for which legal title has not been transferred to the parties as tenants by the entireties.

If approved by the Governor, or allowed to become law without the Governor’s signature, these provisions will take effect July 1, 2024.

At Rice Law Firm we have handled many cases for many clients over the years that involve equitable distribution matters. If you would like to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer on these issues, please give me a call. 386-257-1222