Equitable Distribution of Property in Florida
- Florida is an equitable distribution state
- Marital vs. separate ownership
- Factors considered when dividing property
- Mediation can help
In Florida, divorce law generally aims for an equitable distribution of property in the event of a divorce. Broadly, this means the goal is a fair split of property. It doesn’t necessarily mean the property is split 50/50 between the divorcing parties.
Many factors are taken into consideration when determining how property is split in a divorce, such as if one party made significant sacrifices to support the other in a marriage or if one party was wasteful of marital assets.
Florida is an equitable distribution state
Florida is an equitable distribution state. This is a term used in divorce law, and it means the laws in place favor an equitable distribution of assets and debt in the event of a divorce.
In essence, it is the intention of the law that property and debt should be divided fairly between two people according to circumstances. Again, it doesn’t necessarily mean the split will be 50/50 in terms of property, assets, or financial value.
This is in contrast to the less common community property states. There are nine states that treat nearly everything acquired during a marriage as owned equally by both parties in the marriage. In these states, the focus in divorce is on splitting those assets and debts as close to 50/50 as possible.
Marital vs. separate ownership: How it impacts equitable distribution
Not all property is split when getting divorced. An important consideration is whether a piece of property is considered a marital asset. Broadly, marital assets are property acquired during a marriage. This is the property that will be equitably distributed in a divorce.
There is also separate property, which includes property each spouse owned prior to getting married. As implied by the name, separate property isn’t usually considered in the division of assets and debt that occurs during a divorce.
What factors does Florida look at when dividing property and ownership?
A Florida judge will consider many different factors when deciding how assets and debts should be split as part of a divorce. Some of the most commonly considered factors include the following:
- The financial circumstances of the divorcing parties
- How long the divorcing parties were married
- Whether one person contributed significantly to the education or career of the other
- Whether one person lost out on educational or career opportunities in order to fulfill marital duties, such as raising children
- The contributions of the divorcing parties to their marriage, including taking care of children and caring for the home
Significant leeway is left up to the judge regarding what equitable distribution might look like for a divorcing couple. If something seems like it ought to be taken into account, it likely should be mentioned to a judge so they can at least consider its importance.
How is property divided in Florida?
If a divorcing couple cannot come up with a plan for property and debt division on their own, the judge will make a ruling for them after hearing arguments in court from both divorcing parties. This is called a “contested divorce.”
- A contested divorce is one in which parties cannot agree on how to split their estate, so the intervention of a judge is necessary.
- An uncontested divorce is one in which parties agree on how to split everything, so the intervention of a judge is not necessary.
When possible, uncontested divorce is generally a much faster, cheaper way to get a divorce.
Mediation can help
Sometimes, two divorcing parties may not immediately agree on how to settle their estate, but they are still willing to discuss and negotiate a settlement. For these couples, mediation is often the best way to decide how property will be split.
In divorce mediation, the divorcing couple meets with a mediator. This mediator guides a discussion between them where they work to decide on a fair divorce settlement. While mediation isn’t a good choice for all divorces -– such as when one or both parties are openly hostile – it can be a good way to potentially save thousands of dollars and reach a conclusion everyone believes is fair.
For mediation to work, the divorcing parties must be willing to participate in the mediation process. They must be willing to give in somewhat on certain issues. While no one gets everything they want in a divorce, compromising on issues that are less important to you can help you get the things that may matter most to you.
At Hello Divorce, we have certified mediators who will meet with you by the hour for a flat hourly fee. Click here to learn more about that. Or, schedule a free 15-minute call with an account coordinator to ask questions and learn about the other plans and services we offer.
ReferencesWhat Is Community Property? The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
A Seven-Step Analysis of Equitable Distribution in Florida Part 1: Classification and Valuation of Marital Property. (May 1999). The Florida Bar.
Equitable Distribution: 2023 Family Law Review Course. (2023). Florida Courts.