Business owners with substantial assets often face more complicated issues when dealing with property in high income divorce proceedings. In addition to cash and bank accounts, other assets that astute businessmen can have, include titles to real property, pension plans, shares of stock, retirement funds, options, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans.
In order to arrive at a proper valuation of these types of assets, your attorney may have to sift through financial records and business documents, and make sense out of the figures found among them. But not all attorneys can understand accounting terms and principles, much less read and analyze financial statements. Given the complex nature and treatment of these high-valued assets, hiring a divorce attorney with a strong business background is the best decision any divorcing business owner can make.
Identification of Assets Belonging to the Spouses Jointly and Individually
The first step in asset division is to identify and segregate assets according to marital and non-marital assets. As a rule, only marital assets may be divided between divorcing parties. And Florida law presumes that all assets acquired by the spouses after the date of their marriage are marital in nature. You may, however, overcome this presumption by presenting proof that specific properties are actually non-marital.
Liabilities or obligations of the divorcing parties must also be identified and classified as marital and non-marital. Non-marital assets and liabilities will then be separated from the pool of marital assets which shall be divided according to the principle of Equitable Distribution.
What Are Considered Non-Marital Assets and Liabilities?
Florida statute defines non-marital assets as follows:
- Assets acquired or incurred before the marriage, as well as assets obtained in exchange for such non-marital assets and liabilities.
- Property acquired by one spouses separately as a non-interspousal gift, devise, bequest, or descent, as well as assets obtained in exchange for such properties.
- Fruits or income of non-marital assets during the marriage.
- Specific properties and obligations that the parties have excluded in a valid agreement.
Equitable Distribution of Assets
Florida follows the equitable distribution of assets when dividing marital properties between former spouses. This principle of equitable distribution is based on the theory that spouses in a marriage enjoy equal partnership and thus share equally in both assets and obligations.
An equitable distribution, however, does not always mean a 50/50 split of all assets between the parties. The court may order an unequal division of assets depending on the circumstances of the case, such as:
- Financial circumstances of the spouses
- Duration of the marriage
- The parties’ individual contribution to the marriage
- One spouse’s contribution to the other party’s personal career or educational attainment,
- Other factors that may lead to equity and justice between the divorcing parties.
All other properties that are not classified as non-marital assets are considered as marital assets, and will be divided between the parties. Marital assets shall include:
- Properties acquired during the marriage, either individually or jointly as spouses
- Any appreciation in value of non-marital assets when the increase in value is the outcome of any party’s efforts during the marriage or is the result of the contribution or expenditure of marital funds or assets.
- Properties that the spouses give one another during the marriage.
- Other funds, rights, and benefits in retirement, annuity, deferred compensation plans, insurance plans, and pensions that accrued during the marriage.
Date of Reckoning of Marital Assets
Properties acquired after a cut-off date may no longer be classified as marital assets and liabilities, and may be excluded in the asset division between divorcing parties. The relevant cut-off date may be the earliest date among the following:
- The date of execution of a valid separation agreement;
- The date specified in a valid separation agreement; or
- The divorce petition’s filing date.
Any asset that you have acquired after the cut-off date may no longer be marital for purposes of asset division.
Consequences of Asset Division
Conveyance of property to either spouse: Marital assets that are awarded to one party shall have the effect of an executed deed of transfer, sale, conveyance, or release, which will be recorded in the county where the property is situated. Upon transfer, the new owner shall have full rights to possess and dispose of the property as he or she pleases.
Potential alimony award: Asset division does not take into account the amount of alimony that one party may receive from the other. But the court may consider the outcome of equitable distribution between the parties when awarding alimony to one of the spouses.
Why You Need a Divorce Financial Analyst
Asset division rules including relevant case law are intricate and often difficult to understand. For business owners with vast holdings in real estate, as well as tangible and intangible properties, sorting marital and non-marital assets and liabilities and assigning the correct property values for each can be overwhelming. Without the experienced advice of a divorce financial analyst, you could lose valuable assets that you may have spent years building and growing.
Are you contemplating divorce or facing a divorce petition? Your first step is to consult an experienced divorce attorney who can analyze your situation and help you understand what your property rights and obligations are.
In Pinellas County, Florida, the Law Firm for Family Law has represented hotel owners, restaurant owners, and apartment complex owners in high asset divorce cases. Attorney Gary Williams holds an MBA and is a certified Divorce Financial Analyst who is ready to go to trial in order to protect the rights and interests of his clients.
We invite you to call us today at (727) 531-8737 to learn more about how we can help you.