When most people think of dividing property and debts in a divorce, they expect that the division process assumes that both spouses own all property, assets, and liabilities equally, and that these will all be divided equally between each spouse in the divorce. This concept is known as community property.
Florida is not one of the few remaining states that recognizes the community property concept. Rather, Florida guidelines are centered around a concept known as equitable distribution.
Under the concept of equitable distribution, marital property is owned by the spouse who earned it (or received it as a gift), but all property and debts are to be divided in a manner that is determined to be fair and reasonable—or equitably. It is important to understand that dividing things equitably doesn’t always mean equally.
There is not any specific set of guidelines that is followed to determine what or how much of each asset or liability each spouse will receive. Instead, the court considers a number of different factors to determine what a fair and equitable distribution of assets and property would be. A few of the factors the court may consider when deciding what constitutes equitable distribution include:
- The duration of the marriage
- The contribution of each spouse in the marriage
- Considerations for a spouse who stayed home as a homemaker or to educate and care for the children
- The economic circumstances of each spouse
- The contribution one spouse made to the personal career or education of the other spouse
- Whether the marital home should be retained to maintain stability for the children
Because the factors that will be considered in determining how property and debts will be divided in a divorce vary based on the individual circumstances surrounding every case, it is important to be represented by an experienced family law attorney who will fight to protect your rights and best interests throughout the entire divorce and division of property process.