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How is property distributed in a divorce in Florida?

In a Florida divorce, judges follow the principles of equitable distribution in dividing the marital assets and debts between the spouses. Each person keeps all non-marital assets, including property he or she owned prior to the marriage, any inheritance left to him or her, personal injury lawsuit proceeds, gifts made to one spouse by a third party and any property that has been deemed non-marital through a written or prenuptial agreement.

Equitable distribution is not the same as an equal division. Marital property and incurred debts are divided by the court in the fairest manner. When deciding how to divide the marital property, courts take into account what each party contributed to the marriage, including not only employment but also homemaking, whether a child should remain in the family home, the financial circumstances of each party, how long the marriage lasted and whether one party contributed to the other's education and career advancement.

Marital assets include all property acquired during the marriage either individually or jointly. If there has been an increase in value of a nonmarital asset during the marriage due to the contributions of the other spouse, courts consider the increase in value as a marital asset as well. Gifts between spouses are also marital assets, as are interests in retirement accounts and pensions.

Both parties are legally required to disclose all assets, income and debts to each other in order for the court to conduct a fair asset division. If one party attempts to hide assets from the other, that party may be held in contempt of court, which can include jail time. A person contemplating a divorce who has significant assets may benefit by speaking with a family law attorney who may be able to negotiate a property division settlement without leaving the decision exclusively with the judge.

Source: The Florida Senate , "Equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities", October 07, 2014

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