Fort Lauderdale Property Division Attorneys
Experienced Counsel for Dividing Assets & Debts
In the legal field of divorce, state laws vary when it comes to regulation of marital property division. There are states that operate on a system of community property, dividing the marital assets exactly in half between the two parties, and some states, including Florida, that operate with a system of equitable distribution. Equitable distribution looks at a variety of factors to divide assets and debts owned within the bounds of the marriage fairly between the two spouses at the time of the divorce. Florida law presumes that property is to be divided equitably, but not necessarily equally, between the divorcees.
What Does Equitable Distribution Mean for Me?
Under equitable distribution of property in Florida, the marital property often ends up being divided close to equally. Equitable distribution is frequently one of the most contentious issues in divorce precisely because it may set financial consequences in play for years to come. With the end of the marriage comes the winding down of the economic partnership. Since only marital property is subject to distribution, non-marital property is excluded from the equation. This requires the court to set apart each party’s separate property leaving only marital assets and liabilities left to value and distribute. There are crucially important dates for identification of marital assets and for valuation that must be considered by the court. The intricacies involved with the valuation of marital property frequently require the expertise of a forensic accountant or similar accounting professional. It’s important to recognize that a Florida court may distribute marital property even if that property is geographically located in another state or country. The judge will take a variety of factors into account to determine exactly how the property will be divided between the two divorcing parties.
These factors include:
- The total duration of the marriage
- The independent economic conditions of each spouse
- The respective contributions of each spouse to the marriage (income, stay-at-home parenting, housekeeping, etc.)
- Sacrifices or contributions by one spouse for the purpose of the others’ educational/career pursuits
- The respective contributions of each spouse to increase household income
- Liabilities and/or debts incurred by each respective spouse
- Actions taken by either spouse to deplete, destroy, or hide marital assets up to two years prior to the divorce filing
- The overriding fairness of the distribution
Martial estates can run from large net worth estates to modest estates consisting of a single asset or simply marital debts. Because only marital assets or debts are divided at the time of divorce, assets or debts owned by either spouse independently prior to the marriage or any gifts or inheritances gained during the marriage are excluded from consideration. Property can also be non-marital if it is filed as separate property under the ownership of one spouse at the time of its acquisition.
Pets in Divorce – What about My Pet?
Most pet owners are shocked and dismayed to discover that no Florida law directly addresses pets in divorce. Instead, pets are considered personal property and as such, they are subject to equitable distribution just like any other item of personal property. Pets present real challenges in divorce because of the love, affection, and attachment we feel towards our pets is not reflected in legal protections.
While a Florida judge equitably distributing property in the context of a divorce would have the authority to assign ownership of a pet in divorce, the better practice must be to solve disputed ownership of a beloved pet prior to trial. Many pets have little if any economic value although they may be invaluable to their owners. If you are divorcing and suspect there will be a dispute as to who gets to keep the family pet post-divorce, you should would directly with your lawyer to strategize your property priorities that include the family pet. Pets are but one example of legal issues that should be resolved without litigation given the limited legal protections and lack of legal guidance case law provides trial judges in resolving pet ownership.
At Arcaro Law Group, we love pets including our very own Daisy, Maui, Penny, and Sylvester. We can help you in your goal of achieving a humane outcome for your beloved pet in the context of divorce.
Aggressively Advocating for a Fair & Positive Outcome
Although the system in Florida has been designed to find a fair and satisfactory result for both parties, it may not always go that way. Careful financial evaluation and planning are necessary to protect your rights to receive a fair and equitable award of property in your divorce. Because Florida law prohibits modification of equitable distribution awards, you will have only one opportunity to assert your property rights. Approach the subject of property division with the help of an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney from Arcaro Law Group. We work with our clients to outline their goals for the divorce and for the division of property before meeting with the opposing party. Our hope is that we can reach the desired outcomes for the divorce by negotiating with the other spouse and their legal counsel, but we are prepared to go to court when necessary to fight for what our clients rightly deserve.