Over the course of a marriage, most couple acquire a significant amount of assets. As long as the marriage persists, the precise legal ownership of these items rarely matters. However, once a marriage ends, it’s necessary to determine who owns what so both partners receive an equitable portion of their joint assets.
This is why the idea of marital property matters. Marital or joint property consists of all the assets that are eligible to be divided during a divorce. Here’s what you need to know about how Florida defines marital property, examples of what is and is not included, and how it’s supposed to be split.
Florida’s Asset Division Laws
There are two ways states may choose to approach asset division in divorce. One solution is by defining all marriage possessions as “community property.” In this situation, both spouses are automatically awarded equal ownership of marital assets. In a divorce, the assets are supposed to be divided equally.
The more common solution is known as equitable distribution. While both spouses share ownership of marital assets, they do not automatically split that ownership equally. Family court judges are instructed to divide marriage property equitably, but not necessarily equally.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. According Title VI, Chapter 61, Section 075 of Florida’s legal statutes, “in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.” Under this statute, while judges must approach the situation assuming equal ownership, they may distribute the properly unequally if there is appropriate justification.
Examples of justifications for unequal asset division include:
- One spouse contributed more to the marriage financially, by caring for the home and the children, or by supporting the other spouse as they pursued education or a career.
- One spouse faces a significant economic disadvantage that the other does not, such as a disability or a long period of unemployment.
- One spouse owns a business or professional practice that the other party did not contribute toward.
- The spouse receiving primary custody of the children wishes to retain the family home.
In these situations, a judge may choose to award a greater share of the marriage assets to one spouse.
What Counts as Marital Property in Florida?
Marital property is a purposefully broad term. It includes almost all types of assets, including:
Assets and Funds Acquired During Marriage
As a married person, all income you earn at your job is considered marital property. This includes wages, salaries, bonuses, and tips. Most other funds you acquire will fall under this label as well, including prizes, lottery winnings, and proceeds from selling items.
In addition, items you buy during your marriage will usually be considered marital property as well, regardless of whether your spouse’s name is on the title. This includes stocks and investments, real estate, vehicles, electronics, investments, and collectibles.
Asset Appreciation and Gains
If something you own becomes more valuable during the course of your marriage, that appreciation is considered marital property. For example, if your home doubles in value, that appreciation is considered your joint property. Similarly, the appreciation of stock portfolios, retirement funds, and other investments is typically considered joint property that must be divided between spouses.
Pensions and Retirement Benefits
If you have a pension, the benefits you accrue while you’re married are part of the marital estate. However, the benefits you earn before and after your marriage are not jointly owned. This makes the division of pensions a complex legal matter. Your divorce attorney will work with you to determine the portion of your pension that is eligible to be divided during your dissolution and how to split those funds equitably.
If your spouse gives you a gift, it becomes marital property, and vice versa. This is true regardless of what funds were used to purchase it.
Suppose that you buy a car with funds that were your separate property. If you used it yourself and did not share it, then it would remain your possession and not be considered part of the marriage estate. However, ff you give that car to your spouse as a gift, it is no longer your separate property and is included in the assets to be divided in a dissolution.
Exceptions to Marital Property in Florida
There are a few types of assets that are not immediately considered marital property. These include:
- Inheritances: If one partner receives an inheritance, it remains their separate property unless they combine it with other marital assets. For instance, if they receive money, those funds are theirs unless they deposit them in a joint account with their spouse.
- Income from non-marital assets: If one party owns separate property like a rental home, all income from that asset remains separate unless it’s commingled with the joint assets.
- Assets covered by prenuptial agreements: Couples can use prenuptial agreements to identify certain assets or asset classes as separate. These contracts take precedence over equitable distribution laws as long as they are legally binding and both parties freely consented when they signed it.
Simplify Asset Division by Working with Experienced Divorce Attorneys
The laws surrounding marriage assets can be complex. If you’re concerned about what may or may not be considered joint property in Florida, you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. At the Hache Law Firm, P.A., we have years of experience helping clients understand their financial situation and pursue equitable asset division during their divorces.
You can learn more about how the Hache Law Firm, P.A., can help you by calling (305) 684-3175 or reaching out online to schedule a consultation. We will discuss your situation, help you understand your options, and pursue a fair and just division of assets in your divorce.