In a dissolution of marriage, the courts will handle asset separation by defining your assets and liabilities as a couple, and then taking into consideration any special circumstances in order to come up with a separation of assets that seams “fair” to the courts. This is called inequitable distribution of your total assets and liabilities. Everything that you’ve built together and everything that you’ve promised to pay together will be divided up according to definitions set fourth in the Florida Statutes in Chapter 61 and case law. But what does all that legal jargon mean to you? Here are some very general, simple explanations of what the courts are going to be considering when deciding who gets what assets and liabilities or debts and ongoing costs. (Of course, the process is drastically altered if you have a prenuptial agreement.)
- Separation of assets should be equal, as outlined in Chapter 61 of the statutory provisions of the state of Florida. One partner should not receive more of a percentage of assets or liabilities than the other, unless the courts feel an equal division is unfair. The courts feel, you were in this together, you made the decisions together, you will reap the monetary rewards or deficits together. This seams simple, but the courts may make equitable adjustments to this premise based on the length of the marriage, the economic circumstances of both parties and the contributions to the marriage by each spouse.
- Is the asset marital or non-marital? Property that you’ve obtained during the marriage is usually considered a marital asset, to be divided evenly, regardless of who’s name the asset is in. If your car is in your wife’s name because she bought it for you as a birthday present it is a marital asset and it’s value must be divided evenly between you. There are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if one spouse received an inheritance from a relative and never mixed that money with any assets of the marriage, then that sum would not be considered a marital asset and would not be divided. It would not be a marital asset because at no time did you invest that personal money into your marriage. It did not come about as a result of the marriage partnership. However, if you win an inheritance and deposit it in a joint bank account, you have then added those funds to the marriage and that inheritance will be divided as a marital asset during asset separation.
- Is the liability marital or non-marital? Debt acquired during the marriage is usually considered a marital liability, to be divided evenly, regardless of who’s name the debt is in. If your car is in your name, you purchased it while you were married and you still owe money $10,000 on it, most likely, you owe $5,000 and she owes $5,000 and you both are owed half of the value of the car.
Again, these guidelines are very basic. The courts have a lot of leeway in how to make a “fair”, equitable distribution, and the court hearing your case may not feel that dividing an asset or liability evenly is “fair.” That’s why, in a contested divorce of any kind, both spouses need to hire top divorce attorneys to help them understand, define and present the information of their assets and liabilities fully so the court can make a fair and equitable distribution in Tampa.
If you are considering a divorce, consult with a lawyer who has experience in collaborative divorce, mediation, and traditional adversarial divorce so you can receive insight on which type of divorce may be right for you. Seek out Tampa divorce attorneys with the knowledge you need. Seek out S. David Anton of Anton Legal Group!
David Anton is a third generation Tampa Bay attorney who has handled all aspects of dissolution actions since 1985.