When you get divorced (or even legally separated), you and your spouse will have to figure out what to do with your combined debts and assets. These may include the house, cars, furniture, and savings accounts, in addition to liabilities such as credit card balances or car loans. This process is referred to as property division or distribution and it varies by state. Some states are "community property" states, which assumes all marital property is equally owned and is therefore divided in half in most cases.
Florida, like most states, is not a community property state but instead follows the much more nuanced "equitable distribution" model. This means that the court decides what's fair (or "equitable"), which may not always mean equal. According to Florida statute, "the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors." It's this second clause that indicates Florida's adherence to the equitable division standard (more details in the table below).
Florida Property Division at a Glance
An attorney is best prepared to handle the finer points of property division during a divorce or legal separation, but it's still important to understand the laws that affect you. Therefore, we've compiled the highlights of Florida's property division laws below, written in plain English.
- Civil Practice and Procedure § 61.075, et seq.
- Estates and Trusts § 732.216, et seq. (Florida Uniform Disposition of Property Rights at Death Act)
Relevant Factors Considered for Property Distribution
The following factors are considered when deciding on an equitable division of property and debts:
- The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
- The economic circumstances of the parties.
- The duration of the marriage.
- Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party (for instance, one party left a promising career to raise children).
- The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
- The interest in retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.
- 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.
- 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.
- The intentional waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets (such as destroying a shared home) after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Marital Assets and Liabilities
Florida statute defines the following as "marital assets and liabilities":
- Assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them;
- The enhancement in value of nonmarital assets resulting from the efforts of either party during the marriage and/or from the contribution of funds (for instance, one spouse renovates a home originally purchased by the other spouse);
- Interspousal gifts (i.e. from one spouse to the other) during the marriage; and
- All vested and non-vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs.
Non-marital Assets and Liabilities
“Non-marital assets and liabilities” include the following:
- Assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party prior to the marriage;
- Assets acquired separately by either party by non-interspousal (i.e. not between two spouses) gift, bequest, devise, or descent;
- All income derived from non-marital assets during the marriage unless the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset;
- Assets and liabilities excluded from marital assets and liabilities by valid written agreement of the parties; and
- Any liability incurred by forgery or unauthorized signature of one spouse signing the name of the other spouse.
Non-marital assets and liabilities also include assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage in exchange for such assets and liabilities (for instance, buying a car with money from an inheritance).
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Research the Law
Florida Property Division: Related Resources
Let a Florida Attorney Help You With the Property Division Process
Who gets the house and who gets the dog? Well, it depends. Property division is one of the more tedious tasks associated with divorce, so it's important to get professional help if you have any concerns. If you're getting divorced in Florida, a local divorce attorney will be able to help you.