South Florida Property Division Lawyers
One of the first thing people ask, when they are about to file for divorce, is what happens to our assets. There are two ways the parties can distribute assets in a divorce, voluntarily (through a settlement agreement) or have the Court decide (usually after a trial). Courts distribute the assets of the parties through a process called equitable distribution.
Equitable Distribution is governed by Florida Statute §61.075 and is basically a three-step process that includes Identification, Valuation, and Distribution of assets. During this three-step process the court identifies all marital and non-marital assets, values those assets, and designates which spouse shall receive the assets. Equitable distribution also identifies the liabilities of the parties and designates which spouse is responsible for each liability. Shmucher Law, PL can assist you with advice and advocacy regarding the following:
Identifying Property – Identification is a two-step analysis. First the parties must disclose their property to each other and for equitable distribution purposes, property means BOTH assets and debts. Then a determination will be made as to whether the property is marital property (property that will be equitably distributed) or non-marital property (property that will go free and clear to one spouse). Determining whether a property is marital or non-marital the general rule is as follows:
- Property acquired prior to the marriage or after a legal separation is non-marital.
- Property acquired with separate property is non-marital.
- Gifts and inheritances acquired during the marriage but specifically designated for one spouse is non-marital.
- Non-marital property can become marital property through a process called commingling.
Valuing Property – Once property (both assets and debts) has been identified it must be valued. Some things like bank accounts, stock accounts, and life insurance policies may be easy to value while cars, jewelry, real estate, or business interests may be difficult and may require the hiring of an expert/appraiser/non-interested party to provide an opinion of value.
Distributing Property – Under Florida law, the Courts will look at several factors to determine how to equitably distribute marital assets. Some of the most common ones are:
- The duration of the marriage (how many years where the parties married)
- The contributions of both spouses to the marriage (this includes contribution of home making and taking care of the children)
- The contribution of one spouse’s to the other’s career or education
- The intentional waste of dissipation of marital assets within the two years prior to filing or shortly after the filing of the divorce.
- Whether ownership of the marital home is important to raising minor children.
- The Best interest of the minor children
Settlement Negotiation – When adverse parties go to trial, they leave the decision to the Judge and risk an adverse judgment. One way to remove the risk of an adverse judgment is for the parties to negotiate a settlement, through their lawyers, either directly or through mediation. Settlement negotiations are always voluntary and the parties don’t have to sign the agreement if they don’t believe it’s a fair distribution. Negotiating a settlement is likely a cost-effective measure verses prepping and attending a trial.
If you are thinking of filing for divorce in South Florida and would like to schedule a consultation with the attorney at Shmucher Law, PL then please give us a call or send us a message. We offer affordable legal services for individual who are looking to get divorced in Broward, Dade, and Palm Beach counties.