Is Florida a Community Property State or an Equitable Distribution State?
In the United States, we have two methods of dividing marital assets in the event of a divorce: equitable distribution and community property. By far the majority of states are equitable distribution states. Florida is an “equitable distribution” state.
How Is Property Divided in FL?
Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is to be divided in a manner that is fair and equitable. In community property states, marital property is owned 50/50 by both spouses equally; but since Florida is not a community property state, it does operate under the premise that marital property is to be divided equally. The courts can deviate from that formula, however, based on the circumstances of the case.
Can Spouses Reach An Agreement?
Florida couples are encouraged by the courts to reach their own settlement agreement outside of court. They can reach such an agreement with the help of their respective attorneys, but if a couple cannot agree on a divorce settlement, a judge or arbitrator will have to decide for them.
The factors that will be considered by a judge or arbitrator in regard to dividing marital property include but are not limited to:
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage
- A spouse’s contributions as a homemaker
- The length of the marriage
- If either party experienced an interruption in their education or personal career
- One spouse’s contribution to the other spouse’s career or education
- Any intentional dissipation (waste) of marital assets
What Is Considered "Marital Property" in FL?
When a couple divides their marital assets, the first task is to determine which assets are “marital” since separate assets are not subject to division in a divorce. As a general rule, marital assets include all assets and income acquired during the course of a marriage – these are subject to division in a divorce.
Marital assets include, but are not limited to:
- Cash in bank accounts
- Real estate
- Retirement accounts
- A business
In contrast, separate assets are not divided. Separate assets include assets owned before the marriage, gifts (not including gifts from the other spouse) and inheritances received during the marriage, income from separate property that has not been commingled with marital assets, and items purchased or exchanged with separate property.