Equitable distribution is a fancy way of saying what happens to all the stuff. This is when you either agree how to divide things or where the Court will order how to divide and allocate all of the assets and the debts. The first step is to identify what you have. I will take the time necessary to help identify what may be considered as his separate property and what may be considered as her separate property and finally what would be considered to be the marital property.
Generally speaking, separate property is:
- Assets acquired and liabilities incurred before the marriage;
- property acquired by inheritance or gift received by either spouse in their sole name during the marriage;
- any property that the spouse acquired in exchange for property that was owned before the marriage or property that was acquired by inheritance or gift in their sole name;
- income generated from the separate property unless the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset;
- pain-and-suffering damages awarded in a personal injury case; and
- assets and liabilities that are designated as separate pursuant to a valid pre-nuptial or marital agreement.
Of course as with anything in the law, there are always exceptions to the general rules. As an experienced family law attorney I can help you identify the components of separate property that may be marital property and subject to division.
Once the separate property is set aside to each spouse the Court must then divide the marital property. The Court will start with the premise that the distribution should be equal unless there is good reason for an unequal distribution. Prior to dividing the marital assets, the Court will review the following factors:
(a) The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
(b) The economic circumstances of the parties.
(c) The duration of the marriage.
(d) Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.
(e) The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
(f) The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.
(g) The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.
(h) The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
(i) The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
(j) Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
This analysis is very fact specific to each individual case. It is important to assess these factors early in the case so that we may develop the appropriate plan for your case. What assets you may receive and/or what liabilities you may be responsible for can impact your life for years to come. Accordingly, please be as forthcoming as possible so that we may properly and quickly assess your case to achieve the maximum benefit possible on your behalf.
Clients frequently want to know what happens to the engagement ring. In Florida, an engagement ring given to a party prior to the marriage is a nonmarital asset.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you may have. I have significant experience handling uncontested cases and contested cases. I have vast experience handling cases with few assets to significant assets including, but not limited to, business interests, royalties, retirement accounts, trust, various types of stock options and cases involving contested custody and time sharing issues.
Daniel M. Genet, P.A.
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