Equitable distribution is a property division connected with divorce. Often division encompasses mixed marital and non-marital assets and complex assets such as closely-held companies, retirement assets and equity compensation. When a marriage is dissolved in Florida, the Court will equitably divide the parties’ assets and liabilities. For some, this can be a relatively simple procedure, especially when the parties do not heavily dispute the identification, classification, valuation or division of assets and liabilities. Sometimes, however, the process can be stressful and complicated, such as when a property must be sold in order to give each party his or her equitable share, when both parties strongly wish to keep a particular asset, or when the value of an asset is in dispute.
In a divorce proceeding, the Court must address the spouses’ assets and liabilities. This process is called “equitable distribution.” The Court will set aside each party’s non-marital assets and liabilities and then divide the marital assets and liabilities equitably between the spouses. Non-marital assets and liabilities are presumed to include, but are not limited to:
- Assets acquired or incurred prior to the marriage
- Assets acquired separately by gift, bequest, devise, or descent
- Income derived from non-marital assets unless treated as a marital asset
- Any asset or liability that the parties agree to consider non-marital
- A non-marital asset or liability will also include assets or liabilities acquired or incurred in exchange for non-marital assets or liabilities.
Nonmarital assets are generally set aside to the party owning those assets and are not subject to division in divorce.
On the contrary, marital assets and liabilities presumptively include:
- Those acquired or incurred during the marriage either individually or jointly
- Active enhancement of the value of non-marital assets
- Gifts between the spouses
- Jointly titled personal property, and more.
- Nonmarital assets that have been transmuted into marital assets
Marital assets are presumptively divided equally between the parties.
The court will presume that the distribution of marital assets should be equal unless the parties provide justification for an unequal distribution. When requesting unequal distribution, there are several relevant factors, including but not limited to each party’s contribution to the marriage, each party’s economic circumstances, length of the marriage, marital waste, desirability of keeping the marital home for the children, and any factor that would do “equity and justice” between the parties.
Here are the steps in the equitable distribution process:
Step 1: Determine what assets and liabilities exist.
Step 2: Determine whether those assets are marital or non-marital.
Step 3: Determine the value of those assets and liabilities.
Step 4: Address how those assets are divided.
Having the assistance of an experienced attorney will not only assist in determining what assets and liabilities exist, but in determining what is non-marital versus marital, and also how those assets should be valued and divided. The attorneys at Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. can provide you with the legal knowledge and guidance you need to navigate the equitable division of your assets whether through settlement or litigation. To discuss the facts of your case in detail, contact our office in Naples, Florida to schedule a confidential consultation.