When couples divorce they depend on the divorce court to divide their finances in several ways. Often the largest financial issue the Court decides is the division of a married couple’s assets and liabilities, often referred to as equitable distribution. It is of crucial importance that people understand the basics of equitable distribution including how to determine if an asset or liability is “marital” and thus typically equally divided, or “non-marital” and thus typically given to, or the responsibility of, only one party. Sometimes a financial item is a hybrid or combination of marital and non-marital. A general understanding of the law and how the law is applied to your specific set of facts is important if you don’t want to be shortchanged.
How Do Couples Divide Property in a Divorce?
Generally, the parties must make allegations in their complaint or petition requesting that the court use its power to apply the equitable distribution statute and its associated caselaw.
The parties usually try to figure out whether equal or unequal will benefit them through the use of discovery which is the exchange of financial information. This process starts with what is referred to as mandatory financial disclosure which is a predetermined list of document and information exchanges. If additional information is needed thereafter then specific tailored requests can be made and depositions can be taken.
What Is an “Equitable Distribution”?
Florida uses an “equitable distribution” concept to divide marital property and debt in a divorce. According to the relevant Florida statute, the court begins its analysis of how to divide marital property and debt by presuming that each party is entitled to one half of the marital net worth. It is important to know that the court does not consider fault, or whether one party did something wrong in its determination unless the fault in question can be directly tied to some financial loss.
An “equitable distribution” does not necessarily mean that the division is “equal”. Rather, “equitable” in this circumstance means that the court will consider each party’s financial situation, along with other factors, to adjust the property distribution.
Generally speaking, the court can classify property in a divorce in several different ways:
- Property accumulated prior to the marriage and kept separate is often deemed non-marital or separate property
- Property accumulated during the marriage is often considered marital property
- Property inherited or received by gift during the marriage and kept separate is often considered non-marital or separate property
Appealing an Equitable Distribution Order
Florida divorce attorneys are often asked to handle appeals of Florida Property Division and Florida Equitable Distribution Orders, especially in high asset divorces when so much is at stake.
The main issues that result in property division order appeals in Florida are when one party believes that:
- The judge incorrectly values property
- Financial accounts were purposely run down during the case
- A spouse was improperly awarded non-marital property belonging to the other party
- The date when the asset or liability is valued is the wrong date
- The value of a business was incorrect
If you feel you have been unfairly treated in an Equitable Distribution order by the Florida Courts, then we welcome your call to our family law attorneys at the Anton Legal Group to discuss your situation. Call today at (813) 443-5249 to schedule a consultation.