Family Law 101: Division of Assets & Liabilities During a Florida Divorce

Hi I’m Yanique Otto, attorney-at-law in South Florida with the Otto law group. Thanks for joining us for this episode of now you know the law.

You’ve been married 15 years, established a life together and now citing irreconcilable differences you’re going your separate ways. These days you just have not been able to agree on much and especially not who is going to get what in the divorce. She maintains she wants half the value of the home you purchased one year after marriage but you insist that she is not entitled because it’s your money not hers that purchased it. After all you were the sole income earner for the entire marriage and up front to the deposit and all the mortgage payments for the home. She hasn’t worked since the birth of your first child one year after you got married, here’s what you need to know.

If you’re in a divorce, Florida courts determine who is going to get what based on a system known as equitable distribution. Usually this means that all things being equal, all things will be divided equally pun intended. The first thing the court will do is to look at all the assets and liabilities that the couple has. Then it has to determine which property is considered marital and which are non-marital. This is important because non marital or separate property items are not subject to equitable distribution during divorce. Marital property includes pretty much anything acquired by either party during the course of the marriage including both assets and liabilities. It doesn’t matter if the property or deck is titled jointly or is only in one spouse’s name.

For example if your spouse opens a credit card account and your name is not on it, you are still jointly responsible for the charges on the card with very limited exceptions even if your spouse did all the spending. Likewise, if you buy a car or a piece of land and only record your name on the title, under Florida family laws those would still be considered marital property and would still be subject to equitable distribution during a divorce.

divorce assets

In many divorce cases there is a combination of marital and non-marital assets involved. Some property may even have a component of both. For example, the increase in value of separate property during the marriage is also marital property if it resulted from the contribution of marital funds or the active efforts of either party. So, if the wife owned a home before marriage but during the marriage the couple did some repairs, let’s say they fix up the kitchen or the bathroom and that caused the increase in the property value, that increase in value is considered marital property and is subject to equitable distribution.

So in the example we started out with, why feel went up? Because the home was bought during the course of the marriage, she is indeed entitled to an equitable distribution of that property even though the husband was the one going to work and making the money to maintain the home. One school of thought is that she contributed equally by staying home to take care of the children and the home allowing him to go out and make a living for the family so her contribution should not be considered any less valuable. But here’s the bottom line, Florida family laws are fairly nuanced. When it comes to equitable distribution some things work the way you think they would and others don’t. Don’t try to guess at how the system works. If you’re going through a divorce give our office a call and we can help you. Thanks for joining us we’ll see you next time.