In the majority of States, Courts split assets according to a principle known as Equitable Distribution. What this means is that the court will look to divide assets fairly rather than equally. For individuals, in the States that use equitable distribution to split assets, the system may seem subjective and dependent upon the particular judge that you receive rather than what you believe to be fair. As a result, it is important to talk to an experienced family law attorney, who can help you understand how the system works and how you can arrive at a truly fair distribution of your assets.
An Overview of the Factors that Are Considered in an Equitable Distribution
When a court seeks to distribute assets following a divorce, the court will first categorize the assets as either marital property or separate property. Separate property does not get distributed by the court, as it is not considered a marital asset. Only marital property (i.e., property that is jointly acquired during a marriage) will be split by the court. Additionally, the court will determine how much each item is valued.
In making its calculations regarding equitable distributions, here are some of the things that the court will consider:
- Economic circumstances of the individuals
- The length of the marriage
- The contribution of each parent to any children
- Opportunities that were interrupted as a result of the marriage
- Contributions that a spouse made to the opportunities of the other
- The needs of each party to wholly preserve assets for continuity of a business
- The need to retain a residence for the children
- The waste that either party did to destroy assets after filing a petition
- Any other factors necessary to make the allocation of resources fair
Alimony Is the Preferred Remedy for Potential Unfairness in a Divorce
One interesting caveat of the distribution process is that alimony is curiously absent from the list.
In Florida, the distribution process is governed by section 61.075(8) which makes alimony calculations separate from the distribution process. One of the consequences of alimony being considered separately is that courts can rely on alimony to remedy potential unfairness in the divorce rather than relying on an unequal, or inequitable, distribution of assets. Additionally, many courts prefer to use alimony to balance distributions rather than the equitable distribution process.
Because of the myriad challenges that equitable distributions present, it is important to speak with an accomplished family law attorney before filing for a divorce. A simple and free consultation can potentially allow a person to have a divorce that goes more smoothly and that allows for a distribution of assets that is truly equitable. If you have questions about divorces in general or equitable distributions in particular, we invite you to contact us at (727) 531-8737.