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Equitable Distribution at the Dissolution of Marriage in Florida

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Divorce is always a hard topic. Even if there are not children involved in the marriage, spouses must divide their belongings and assets earned during the marriage as they part ways.

In the state of Florida, we have what is called an “Equitable Distribution” of assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. This basically means that any marital property will be equally distributed after a divorce. These include assets acquired jointly by the spouses during the marriage; enhancements of non-marital property due to the efforts of a spouse; jointly titled property, even if it was acquired as non-marital property; gifts from one spouse to another during the marriage; and joint bank accounts.

Just as assets are divided, so must liabilities.  A marriage between two people can have many benefits and successes, but also comes with risk and sometimes failures. Equitable Distribution covers both sides.

The Process of Dividing Through Divorce

During the divorce process, the first consideration is always the dependent children, if there are any. The court will handle issues of custody and child support prior to the equitable distribution of property. After the children are taken care of, the court will award each party their non-marital property, or items that were acquired before the spouses were legally married. However, it’s important to note that non-marital property can become marital property, as in the example of a spouse’s name being added to the title of a property owned by the other spouse before the marriage.

An example of non-marital property could be a personal bank account that is only in one spouse’s name that was opened prior to the marriage and not used for marital expenses.

The equitable distribution of properties acquired during the marriage will follow the non-marital assets. After the equitable distribution of property, the court will determine alimony, if any is awarded.

What Does the Court Consider?

According to Chapter 61 of Florida Statutes, which discusses equitable distribution. The following items are considered by the court when dividing the marital assets and liabilities. Some items may be awarded in a larger percentage to one spouse over another depending on “competent and substantial evidence” of the lawyer of that spouse.

(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 two years prior to the filing of the petition.

(j)        Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

In an amicable divorce, both parties will sign a “Marriage Settlement Agreement” (MSA), which will lay out exactly how everything will be divided after the dissolution of the marriage. However, in many cases, this process will be handled in mediation or by a judge.

Courts will be as equal as possible when dividing assets and liabilities at the end of a marriage, but a competent family attorney may be able to help a spouse recover exactly what he or she is owed. If you are facing a divorce, contact a family attorney as soon as possible in order to assist you through the distribution of property earned over the course of your marriage. The Spatz Law Firm is here to answer your questions. Please give us a call at 305-442-0200.

References:

A Seven-Step Analysis of Equitable Distribution in Florida Part 2: Distributing Marital Property. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM/JN/jnjournal01.nsf/Articles/8323D0F2AB6652FB85256ADB005D627A

Equitable Distribution in Florida Dissolution of Marriage – Florida Divorce Source. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.divorcesource.com/ds/florida/equitable-distribution-in-florida-dissolution-of-marriage-3703.shtml

 

Alimony in the State of Florida

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A former Miami Dolphin was in the news recently, not for making plays on the field, but for skipping out on an alimony payment to his ex-wife. Jason Taylor was divorced from his wife of 14 years back in 2015. At the time, a judge ordered Taylor to pay his ex-wife $8.67 million in a lump sum alimony payment. This summer, his ex-wife filed a lawsuit in Broward County claiming that Taylor still owes her $3.4 million, and despite attempts to retrieve the money peacefully, she has not had any success in obtaining the funds owed to her.

Alimony Controversies

Alimony has been a hot topic lately as many argue that that statutes and conditions of traditional alimony are outdated now that women have a higher earning power. Some may say that permanent alimony keeps ex spouses tied to each other until death, and often brings children and current spouses into unnecessary legal fights.

For example, in one Florida case, a woman is suing her former husband’s current wife for legal fees stemming from her alimony case. According to her lawsuit, her ex- husband neglected to pay alimony for years, and when he was ordered by a court to pay his ex hundreds of thousands of dollars in back alimony, he transferred many of his significant financial assets to reside under his current wife’s name so that he could escape collection of his debts. Hi ex-wife claims that she is attempting to retrieve what is owed to her by the lawsuit against the current wife’s assets.

What is alimony?

In the state of Florida, alimony, or maintenance, can be granted to either party after the dissolution of a marriage. The purpose of awarding alimony can range from acting as a “bridge-the-gap” payment, which is set in place until the recipient is able to get to a better financial situation after the marriage, to a permanent alimony structure, meaning one spouse pays the other until death. Alimony can also be durational with a stop date, or rehabilitative, with a structured plan in place to get the recipient from one status to another with regards to employment or disability. A court can order that the payments are made on a monthly basis, or in a lump sum, as the Taylor case represents.

What factors are considered in awarding alimony?

A court will decide if either party needs financial maintenance and whether the other party has the ability to pay. There are many factors that are considered when determining alimony. A court may look at some or all of the following factors:

  • Standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Duration of marriage (less than seven years is considered a short-term marriage, seven-17 years is a moderate marriage, and 17+ years is long-term)
  • The age, physical, and emotional state of each party.
  • Financial resources of each party, including marital and non-marital assets.
  • Earning capacity, education, and skill level of each party.
  • Contribution to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare.
  • Responsibility of each party to minor children.
  • Sources of income and tax treatment of each party.
  • Any additional factors that account for equity and justice between parties.

Additional Alimony Requirements

A court may require the payer of alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy as a way to secure the alimony payments. It’s important to note that any alimony payments cannot cause the one who is paying to have a significantly lower income than the recipient unless there are exceptional circumstances as noted by the court.

If you are considering a divorce, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will explain the options available to you throughout the process of the dissolution of your marriage.

References:

LAMBIETjose@gossipextra.com, J. (n.d.). Miami Dolphins legend Jason Taylor secretly divorced in 2015. Now, he’s being sued. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jose-lambiet/article165207992.html

Joseph, S. (2017, July 18). Lawyer’s Ex-Wife Asks Court to Make New Wife Pay Her Legal Fees. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202793290507/Lawyers-ExWife-Asks-Court-to-Make-New-Wife-Pay-Her-Legal-Fees

(2017, August 10). Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099%2F0061%2FSections%2F0061.08.html