Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution

Dividing Assets and Liabilities in Divorce

The division of assets and liabilities of a marriage is an important aspect of a divorce. Equitable distribution is the identification, valuation and division of marital assets and liabilities. Under Florida law, the starting point is to equally divide the value of the marital assets and liabilities that were accumulated during the marriage.

At the Law Offices of Robert J. Merlin, P.A., we are very mindful of the costs associated with determining assets and liabilities versus the potential gain. We strongly urge our clients not to argue over small items, because the amount of attorney’s fees spent to retain possession of items such as pots, pans and dishes, is frequently more than the value of the items. In appropriate circumstances, we might seek an unequal division of the marital assets and liabilities, especially when alimony is awarded as a lump sum or if the other party has either dissipated or expended an unequal amount of the marital assets.

Determining Pre-Marital Assets

A significant issue could be determining whether an asset is marital. Generally, assets that a party owns coming into a marriage or receives from a third party through a gift or inheritance, are not marital assets. But such assets can become marital if, for instance, the asset is put into joint names with the other spouse. Under Florida law, inter-spousal gifts, such as a birthday or anniversary gift, are marital and are subject to equitable distribution upon a divorce, but our experience is that spouses frequently negotiate a settlement that provides, for instance, that each spouse will keep their own jewelry, even if the other spouse gave it to them, because the intent was for the receiving spouse to have that as a true gift. Retirement accounts often have both non-marital and marital components. It is critical for a spouse who claims that a portion of her or his retirement account is non-marital to obtain a statement of the account from shortly before the marriage to prove that the non-marital retirement account existed and its value at that time. The marital and non-marital portions of a retirement account normally need to be valued in conjunction with a divorce.

It is important for couples who are divorcing to agree how to divide their marital assets and liabilities. If they cannot agree how to divide their marital assets and liabilities, a judge will make that decision for the couple, and could order that an asset be sold.

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Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals
IACP - International Association of Collaborative Professionals
CFLI - Collaborative Family Law Institute
Florida Collaborative Trainers