St. Petersburg Equitable Distribution Lawyers
Equitable Distribution refers to the division of marital assets between spouses as a result of a divorce. Even couples who were only married for a short time can have a significant amount of marital assets and debts that must be divided. For couples who were married longer and accumulated a great deal of wealth and property, the marital estate can be substantial, and dividing it evenly or fairly can be quite complicated.
Figuring out how to divide the marital property is one of the most key and complex issues to sort out in a divorce. Fortunately, the family law attorneys at Greene & Greene are highly skilled and experienced in this area and can help you negotiate a marital settlement agreement that meets your needs or vigorously represent your interests in court if a settlement can’t be reached. This is what we mean when we say Solution Oriented, Trial Tested. Learn more below about how our law firm can help with property division in your Florida divorce, and contact our experienced St. Petersburg equitable distribution lawyers today.
Step One – Identify Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
Before the parties or the courts can divide the couple’s marital property, every asset and debt must be located and identified as either marital or non-marital. This step is not as easy as it might seem. The Florida statute defining marital and nonmarital assets and liabilities is highly technical and lengthy. For example, nonmarital property includes:
- Assets and liabilities acquired by either party before the marriage
- Assets acquired during the marriage through inheritance or gift by someone other than the spouse
- Assets and liabilities acquired or incurred in exchange for nonmarital property
- All income derived from nonmarital assets during the marriage, except that if the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset, then it becomes marital property
The legal definition of marital property in Florida law is even longer and more complex. It not only includes assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage by either spouse, whether together or separately, but also the appreciation in value of nonmarital assets resulting from the efforts of either party during the marriage or the contribution or expenditure of marital funds to enhance its value. This can include the passive appreciation of real property if the note and mortgage secured by the property are paid down from marital funds during the marriage. Interspousal gifts during the marriage are marital assets, as are all vested and nonvested benefits and rights in retirement plans, pensions, profit-sharing plans, annuities, deferred compensation plans, and insurance plans and programs
Assets and debts excluded from marital property by a valid written agreement, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, can also be considered nonmarital. In a dispute, the party claiming that an asset or debt is separate property has the burden of proving it in court. The equitable distribution lawyers at Greene & Greene can represent your interests and make sure every asset and debt is properly identified as marital or separate, including instances where your spouse might be trying to hide funds or property from you or the court.
Step Two – Value Marital Property
Before the marital property can be equitably distributed, it has to be accurately valued. Many assets will need an appraisal, and different appraisal methods can produce vastly different results. Our team is highly experienced in handling divorce cases involving high-asset and high-net-worth couples. We can help ensure that complex assets such as business income, business valuations, self-employment income, profit-sharing and investment accounts, jewelry, art and more are properly valued so you will be treated fairly when it comes time to divide up marital property and debts.
Step Three – Divide Marital Property
Florida law calls for an “equitable distribution” of marital property. Courts start with the premise that an equal division of property is equitable, and this is the default mode of distribution, even though one spouse might have done more to generate the income or make the investment that created the asset or debt. However, courts are more than willing to divide marital property unequally when an equal division would not be equitable or fair. Courts consider a long list of factors to determine whether there is a justification for an unequal distribution. These factors include, among others:
- How much each spouse contributed to the marriage through earnings, taking care of the children, or serving as a homemaker
- The economic circumstances of the parties
- The length of the marriage
- Whether either party interrupted their education or career for the sake of the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the education or career advancement of the other
- The desirability to keep an asset such as a business or professional practice intact and free from any claim by the other party
- Whether either spouse intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed marital assets either after the divorce petition was filed or within the two years before the petition was filed
It’s hard work to justify an unequal distribution. Our property division attorneys at Greene & Greene know the law and take time to understand the facts in your case. We are highly experienced in this complex area and are well-prepared to represent you when seeking or opposing an unequal distribution of marital property.
Contact Greene & Greene Today
Our Florida divorce and family law attorneys are skilled negotiators and litigators who can help you work out a practical property settlement agreement that meets your needs or represent your interests in court when an agreement can’t be reached. Our firm focuses especially on more complicated and high-value divorce cases involving business valuations and income disputes, so we will be ready to handle your issues no matter how complex. Call our experienced St. Petersburg equitable distribution lawyers today.