The basics of property division during a Florida divorce

When a married couple decides to divorce, the division of property between the spouses is often one of the biggest issues that must be considered. Each state has different laws that determine how property is divided during divorce. In Florida, the property division process is based on a system known as equitable distribution.

Put simply, the equitable distribution system is based on the idea that property (and debts) should be divided between divorcing spouses in a manner that is fair under the circumstances. It is important to understand, however, that in some cases fair does not necessarily mean equal.

Equitable distribution in Florida

Florida law provides that the property division process in divorce cases should begin with the premise that the couple's assets will be divided equally unless a judge determines that there is sufficient justification for an unequal distribution. In order to make a determination on this issue, the judge may consider a wide range of factors, such as:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse's financial circumstances
  • Each individual's contributions to the marriage, including childcare and homemaking responsibilities
  • Any contributions by one spouse to the career or education of the other
  • Any interruption of the career or educational opportunities of either spouse

In addition to the examples listed above, a judge may consider any other factors that he or she considers relevant to the issue of equitable distribution.

What property will be divided?

Not all property is subject to equitable distribution during divorce in Florida. Instead, before the division process begins, the spouses' property must be inventoried and classified as either marital or separate. Although certain exceptions apply, marital property typically includes the assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage, while separate property includes the assets that were owned by either spouse at the time of the marriage. Generally, marital property is subject to equitable distribution while separate property is not.

Negotiating a settlement out of court

Another thing to understand about the division of property during divorce in Florida is that the spouses have the option of negotiating their own property settlement agreements outside of the courtroom, often with help from their divorce attorneys. This gives the parties themselves a greater degree of control over the final resolution and can help them avoid the added time and expense of litigating who gets what. However, if they are unable to reach an agreement in this way, it becomes necessary to have the issue resolved by a judge.

If you are facing the prospect of divorce in Florida, be sure to get advice from an experienced family law attorney who can help you understand your rights and legal options. A skilled divorce lawyer can be a powerful advocate for your interests at every stage of the divorce process and will work hard to help you secure a favorable property settlement.