The process of divorce is never simple, particularly when it comes to the division of assets. One of the most contentious aspects of a divorce, it often involves a complex and exhaustive evaluation of shared properties, financial accounts, and debts. In the state of Florida, asset division is governed by the principles of 'equitable distribution'.
What is Equitable Distribution?
Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning that all marital assets and liabilities are divided fairly during a divorce, though not necessarily equally. The court considers various factors including each spouse's contribution to the marriage, the length of the marriage, and each spouse's financial and economic circumstances.
Marital vs Non-Marital Assets
One of the initial steps in asset division is distinguishing between marital and non-marital assets. Marital assets and debts are those acquired or incurred during the marriage. Non-marital assets and liabilities belong individually to each spouse and may include assets owned before marriage, inheritances or gifts received individually, and assets and debts mutually agreed upon as separate.
Valuation of Assets
The valuation of marital assets is crucial. This may involve appraisals of real estate, valuation of personal property like vehicles, art, jewelry, or estimating the value of financial accounts or retirement funds. In some cases, particularly with complex assets such as a family business, financial experts may be involved.
Division of Assets
Once assets are classified and valued, the court decides how to distribute them. The court aims for fairness, taking into consideration each spouse’s financial circumstances, contributions to the marriage (both financial and non-financial), the desirability of keeping the family home for any dependent children, and other relevant factors.
The Role of a Prenuptial Agreement
A prenuptial agreement can greatly influence asset division. If a legally sound prenup is in place, the court usually adheres to its terms, as long as they are fair and reasonable and both parties had full disclosure of assets and legal advice at the time of signing.
Dividing assets in a divorce can be a stressful and complex process. Understanding the basics can help, but having an experienced family law attorney by your side is invaluable. They can navigate the intricacies of the law, protect your interests, and advocate for a fair distribution of assets. Remember, while it's a challenging process, there is light at the end of the tunnel - the start of a new chapter in your life.