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Understanding Equitable Distribution of Marital Property in Florida

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which essentially means each spouse receives a fair portion of marital property based on its total value. To understand this further, it is important to learn what is considered marital property, how to figure out the equity of the property and be aware of dissipation issues.

Definition of Marital Property

According to Florida law, marital property (or assets) is considered to be items that have been acquired during the duration of the marriage. Items considered marital property are:

  • Increased value of assets
  • Gifts from one spouse to the other
  • Real property
  • Personal property that is titled under both spouses’ names
  • Retirement accounts, pensions and so forth
  • Liabilities (debt)

The law also takes into account the value of a spouse’s contribution towards the other spouse’s success. For example, if a spouse supported the other spouse’s business through hosting business parties or taking care of the household to enable the spouse to focus on his or her business, then the growth of the business and subsequent increased value could be counted as marital property.

Property that would fit under the state’s definition of non marital property would be non-spousal gifts, inheritances, income from non marital assets and property that both spouses agree to exclude.

Calculating Equity of Marital Property

Once the character of the asset, or the classification of marital property, is determined, then it needs to be valued. Generally, a date is assigned for the valuation of marital property and that date may be the date of separation for the spouses or the date the marriage is dissolved. In Florida, the judge has the ability to determine the valuation of some assets or debts on different dates.

To make sure that one spouse does not have an advantage over the other, it is a good idea to enlist the help of a family law attorney with experience in valuing marital property. If the spouses cannot agree on the proper value of marital property, then it will likely fall to a judge to make that decision.

Preventing Dissipation of Marital Property

In some cases, a spouse may attempt to hide property or assets from the other or attempt to sell property to exclude it from the property division process. However, if a spouse suspects that the other spouse is trying to dissipate property, he or she can petition the court to issue what is referred to as an injunction.

An injunction essentially freezes the property and assets, preventing the spouse from being able to sell it or transfer it during the divorce process. The spouse will need to show the court that there is just reason for issuing an injunction order, but an experienced attorney can help. Anyone going through a divorce should consider hiring a divorce lawyer to guide him or her through the process and protect his or her legal rights.