Property Division in a Florida Divorce
One of the most contentious issues in any divorce is the question of how property and assets accumulated during the marriage will be divided between spouses. Sometimes, these disputes are purely focused on the funds at stake, and whether each spouse is receiving a percentage of marital assets that accurately represents the contributions they made during the marriage. Other times, fighting centers on personal issues, such as which spouse will get to keep items with sentimental value, or which spouse will continue to live in the home that the family shared in happier times. No matter the source of the conflict, it is critical to have an experienced, financially-savvy attorney on your side when determining how property should be divided in a Florida divorce. The Clearwater Law Firm for Family Law’s attorney Gary E. Williams has the expertise in family law, as well as the education in business and finance, that you want on your side in a Florida divorce. Contact our offices today for a consultation on your divorce in Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, or Tampa.
Equitable Distribution Lawyer Representing Clients on Equitable Distribution in Clearwater
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that all property that is considered “marital property” is to be equally divided between the two parties in divorce. In order to ensure that your pre-marital or “separate” property is not divided and to ensure that you receive an equal dividend of your marital property, you need an expert divorce attorney by your side, especially if your live in Belleair, the Beaches, or Palm Harbor.
With each passing year, the issue of equitable distribution is getting more and more complicated.
Determinations of which property should be considered “separate” and which should be considered “marital” are subtle distinctions that rely on constantly-evolving case law. This makes it critical that you choose an attorney who focuses their practice specifically on divorce and other family law issues, and who is committed to staying up-to-date on new developments that could have an impact on your divorce.
Did you know that even if you owned your home before you got married and you left it titled in your name only, that your spouse may have a claim to the equity in that house? That is the effect of the case of Kaaa v. Kaaa, (Florida Supreme Court, 2010). The full impact of this case is still being felt in numerous cases in the Second District of Florida, including cases in Clearwater, East Lake, New Port Richey, Tampa and St. Petersburg.
You may also not know about the case of Roth v. Roth, from the Second District Court of Appeals, decided in 2008. Under the ruling in Roth, if assets are spent on living expenses, litigation cost and attorney’s fees, or on other legitimate marital expenses then the Court cannot distribute any of those funds, despite the fact that your spouse was the only one who benefits from those expenditures. You know that big tax refund you thought your spouse received, well if your spouse used it to pay their attorney’s fees, you are not entitled to your half anymore because it’s been spent. Needless to say the Roth case requires some planning and, maybe, the freezing of assets to prevent this kind of depletion of the marital estate.
Different assets are handled differently in the equitable division process
Here’s another complication that is interesting to many people. Did you know that if you have “unvested stock options” or “pension rights” that any part of were earned during the marriage, they are subject to equitable distribution – even though they have not yet vested at all.
You may have a home, retirement accounts – an IRA or 401-K, you may have a 403-B or a closely held corporation, or a professional practice. Did you know that the student loans (acquired during the marriage) to become a Doctor are marital debts subject to distribution but that your Medical Degree has no value as an asset? Absolutely true.
You may have spent years building your small business, pouring your lifeblood into seeing it flourish. Without skilled and experienced representation, small business owners may find divorce especially devastating. In many cases, the business that a spouse starts during a marriage becomes one of the assets subject to equitable division in a split. It is critical to reach an accurate valuation of the business through the use of trusted experts. Once there is a fair valuation of the business, couples must determine how that amount will be divided between spouses. If the business owner wishes to continue operating the business, they must either find the funds to buy out their spouse’s interest in the business, trade other marital assets for their spouse’s share of the business, or face the sale of the business. Clearwater family law attorney Gary E. Williams’ proficiency in business, achieved through both an undergraduate and graduate degree in business, makes him the attorney you want on your side if you’re a small business owner going through a divorce in Florida.
Each different type of asset has different rules and different tax implications. They also have different values. For example, $100,000 of equity in a home is not of the same value as $100,000 in a 401-K because the money in the 401-K is subject to taxation and the equity in the home probably is not.
And then, there’s all those rules about when one party or the other is entitled to an unequal distribution. The Court has 10 factors to consider when determining the issue of an unequal distribution. These factors range from the contribution of each spouse to the marriage to the intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets. And, of course, there’s the lawyers favorite factor: “any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.” Needless to say, that factor along can require a trial.
Complex case law and statutes require the help of a skilled attorney
Given the complexity of the statutes on equitable distributions and the increase in complexity that results after adding in the impact of the case law, if you have any sort of significant assets, you need an expert in Marital and Family Law to represent you in your case.
Not only an expert in divorce law, but an attorney who understand complex financial issues and reports, and an attorney who understands the potential tax issues that may arise from an equitable distribution scheme.
Our attorney, Gary E. Williams, is Board Certified as an expert in Marital and Family Law. He is also a Board Certified Advocate as designated by the National Board of Trial Advocates. Beyond those expert designations, Gary is also a Divorce Financial Analyst, as recognized by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and he has an MBA and a BA in Business. When it comes to financial issues he has excellent credentials, education and experience. Why would you want someone who does not have those credentials representing you in your divorce?
At The Law Firm for Family Law, our family law attorney in Clearwater, FL focuses on the following practice areas:
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Collaborative Divorce
- Domestic Violence
- Equitable Distribution
- Family Law Appeals
- High-Asset Divorce
- High-Conflict Divorce
- Military Divorce
- Parenting Plans & Time Sharing
- Post- & Pre-Marital Agreements
Contact an Expert Attorney in Equitable Distribution in Palm Harbor, Belleair, the Beaches or elsewhere
Our expert attorney, Gary E. Williams of The Law Firm for Family Law has handled more than 1,800 family law cases over the years. He specializes in practicing marital and family law and he strives to provide a level of client care that few can match. Our expert give personal attention to each client and will provide assertive and aggressive representation if necessary. In addition, Gary E. Williams is a certified divorce financial analyst who can provide insight into taxes, pensions, business valuations, and other important factors that may play into your equitable distribution. Contact our firm today for more information! You can call for your free initial consultation too – 727-531-8737
Related Links: High-Asset Property Division in Florida Divorces Waiver of Right to Future Properties Affects Property Division During Divorce High-Asset Property Division: Some Recent Examples Court Confirms Importance of Valuation Date in High Asset Property Division Case Donative Intent Ruling Gives Wife Property Rights Property Division in Florida Divorce Cases