High Asset Divorce: Asset Division in Florida

- Gary E. Williams

One of the most contested areas of divorce continues to be the division of property and other assets, which can bring divorce proceedings to a stalemate if separating spouses fail to reach an agreement.

However, when the assets in question are sizable, or have a significant value, proceedings can only grow more complex. In the state of Florida, there are a number of factors that go into deciding asset division, especially when the couple in question holds a number of high value assets.

High Income Divorce in Florida

The state of Florida is known as an equitable distribution state, which means that courts distribute any and all marital property fairly, starting with the assumption that it’s to be divided equally. Though a vague term, marital property typically refers to things like:

  • Personal possessions
  • Real estate assets such as the marital home or additional properties
  • Income and debts acquired during the course of marriage

In cases where a couple is dealing with the division of valuable assets, such as high net worth cases, the division of assets can get somewhat complicated. In many cases, one party may not necessarily be aware of the full extent of the assets involved in the case, especially if they entrusted their spouse with the control of assets and growth.

High-asset cases also mean looking beyond material, personal possessions or concrete property holdings during divorce proceedings. In addition to evaluating those assets, a high-asset divorce must also consider assets related to:

  • Ownership interests
  • Inheritance
  • Real estate holdings
  • Beneficiary factors
  • Pensions

Deciding the Division of Assets

Although Florida is an equitable distribution state, it does not always mean that each divorce will end in the equal division of assets. Even in high-income cases, a judge may decide to divide property and assets “unequally”, after examining any number of factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The overall economic circumstance
  • The scope of each spouse’s contributions to the relationship and marriage, including the role of homemaker and/or primary caretaker
  • How the spouse’s contributions enhanced the marital assets
  • Whether either spouse intentionally squandered finances or property
  • Any additional factors that the Court deems necessary to provide equal division

Typically, it is only marital property that is considered when dividing any assets prior to divorce. However, there are certain cases where separate, or non-marital, assets may be considered marital and eligible for division.

An example of this would be a non-marital asset that was treated as a joint asset. Although it may have produced income prior to the marriage, it may be considered a marital asset if the couple relied on it as a source of income, or as a financial asset during the course of the marriage.

Determining Value of Marital Assets

Once the distinction has been made between marital and non-marital property, it is up to the couple (or the court, if necessary) to assign a monetary value to each asset. This is most commonly done through the help of professional appraisers, should the assets require appraisal.

However, because high-asset cases are not always easily summed up in dollars or cents, the division of property in these types of cases is not always easy. It may require the assistance of a qualified financial professional, like a certified public accountant (CPA) or an actuary.

Because high-asset divorce cases can grow to be so complex, it is important that you have a firm understanding of where your marriage began and ended, from a fiscal perspective. When it comes down to it in these types of cases, money is a large factor. No one wishes to part with their assets, but enlisting the appropriate legal assistance can make all the difference in the outcome of your proceedings.

Finding a High-Asset Divorce Attorney

If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce, or if you are dealing with a high-asset divorce situation, it is important that you contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. Only a qualified family law specialist can evaluate your high-asset case and recommend a course of action according to your current state statutes.

Because these proceedings can hold significant consequences for your financial future, it is important to consult with an attorney immediately, in order to make the best possible decisions.

Established by Gary Williams, one of the 18 Board Certified Experts in Marital and Family Law in Pinellas County, the Law Firm for Family Law serves as the leading legal resource for those involved in family law matters in Florida, including high-asset divorce proceedings. Our legal team also possesses the skills, experience and legal knowledge necessary to successfully argue your case in a court setting, should your situation warrant it. No matter what your situation is, our attorneys are ready, willing and able to provide the support you need during this difficult time.

In addition to divorce proceedings, our firm also specializes in a number of other areas of family law, including child support, child custody, paternity and military divorce. To get started, contact the Law Firm for Family Law at (727) 531-8737 to schedule your complimentary preliminary consultation.