A marriage is a partnership into which the individual partners brought their assets and contributions, perspectives and personalities, which were combined at the marriage to create one partnership with its own distinct personality, assets, liabilities and plans. When the individual partners make the decision to dissolve the partnership there is regret for the unfulfilled expectations and unmet goals. Practically, there is also a need to determine who takes what portion of the assets and responsibilities acquired by the partnership. Sometime, fairness is hard to define.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that the property that came into the partnership during the marriage is generally jointly own by the parties. Equitable by definition means just and right, fair and reasonable. Thus, equitable distribution does not necessarily mean a strictly 50-50 equal distribution, but only that the result is fair and just. While this method is more flexible than states that require a strict 50-50 division, the outcome is harder to predict since various factors are weighed subjectively.
For purposes of dissolution of marriage, property and liabilities are divided into two types: non-marital and marital. Non-marital assets and liabilities stay with the individual and are not subject to division by the court. Very generally these are assets that were acquired and liabilities incurred before the marriage by one of the spouses that were never co-mingled or treated as marital as well as anything these were exchanged for or income from such assets. Marital assets and liabilities are, again very generally, those acquired and incurred during the marriage and treated as or held as joint property and debts. Also any rights or value earned during the marriage in pension, insurance or like funds of both spouses are considered marital assets. The details are critical to determining whether something will be considered marital or non-marital.
In making an equitable distribution of a divorcing couples' property and debts, the court first sets apart each spouse's non-marital assets and liabilities. In dividing the remaining marital property, Florida law operates under the assumption that assets and liabilities of the partnership are to be divided 50/50. However, this assumption can be rebutted, and the court may make an unequal distribution based on all the relevant factors. Some of these factors listed in Florida law are the contributions each person made to the marriage (specifically includes those contributions made to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker); economic circumstances of the parties; length of the marriage; career or education interruptions; contributions of one spouse to the education or career of the other; etc.
A complete financial picture of the assets and income of both spouses is absolutely necessary to obtaining the most equitable result. By gathering the essential documents and information, you will not only save yourself time and money, but you will provide your attorney with the tools needed to achieve your best result. Also, having these documents in your possession will help keep your spouse from hiding or dissipating assets before they can be properly considered. Important documents include records, receipts, applications, appraisal and other documents evidencing or related to real property; motor vehicles; personal property; bank accounts; brokerage statements; stock, bond and mutual funds; income taxes, estimated taxes; loans, mortgages, appraisals; outstanding debts; wills and trusts; insurance policies; accounts payable and receivable; cash receipt books; records; sale and option agreements; corporate interests; partnership and joint venture agreements; stock options; pension, profit sharing, deferred compensation agreements and retirement plans; employment records; fringe benefits; employment contracts; charge accounts; membership cards; judgments; charitable contributions; medical bills and business records; telephone records; tapes and photographs.
At The McCall Moody Law Firm we will help you identify all of the assets acquired during the marriage and those that are yours individually. We work with you to determine how the various assets and liabilities should be classified and valued. We work hard for you to achieve an equitable distribution that is just and right for you and your circumstances.
To discuss your divorce case and the assets and liabilities involved with an experienced lawyer, contact The McCall Moody Law Firm at 850-656-7753. We are available to assist people in Tallahassee, Florida and the surrounding region, including Miramar Beach, Navarre Beach, and Cape San Blas.