Articles Posted in Equitable Distribution

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It is understandable that some spouses who are divorcing are not necessarily in the mindset to cooperate with one another. After all, fighting and disagreements have likely played a role in the decision to end their marriage. However, refusal to come to an agreement regarding one or more issues in a divorce can cause serious delays and can increase the cost of a divorce.

Before a court will grant your divorce, you and your spouse must settle numerous issues including:

  • Property and debt division;
  • Child support;
  • Time-sharing and visitation;
  • Parenting plans;
  • Alimony.

If any one of those issues cannot be settled out of court, the divorce can be delayed as the court will have to decide for you. You and your spouse will have to present evidence to support your arguments for how you want to resolve the issue at trial and the judge will rule on the matter.

A recent divorce case demonstrates just how much a divorce case can be affected by adversarial disputes instead of cooperation. After 25 years of marriage, the wife of the founder of Cancer Treatment Centers for America filed for divorce. The filing occurred in 2009 and the case is still dragging on due to several disagreements regarding a prenuptial agreement, custody, and division of their millions of dollars in assets. The case has involved numerous hearings, appellate hearings, changes of lawyers, contempt orders, and other complications, and is now finally going to trial over asset and property division. In the meantime, both spouses have likely spent an enormous amount of money, stress, and time dealing with the divorce proceedings and have been unable to remarry since their marriage is not yet dissolved after more than six years. Continue reading →

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When two people get married, it often makes sense to combine finances. Spouses open joint bank accounts and combine their incomes to help each other pay off debts–both pre-existing debts and new ones acquired during the marriage. In many situations, spouses may depend on one another to be able to cover their monthly bills. This can all lead to a messy situation if the spouses decide to get divorced.

During a divorce, Florida law requires the fair and equitable division of all jointly-owned property and this law applies to debts, as well. However, dividing up debts can be complex, especially if some debts are owned individually and others jointly. The name on the debt does not always mean that person will be solely responsible for the payments, however, and it is important to discuss debt division with an experienced divorce attorney who understands the relevant law. The following is some brief information regarding the division of certain debts in divorce:

Student Loans

Student loans are often individual debts unless the spouses cosigned on the loans or the loans were acquired during the marriage. In such cases, the loans would be considered marital debt and you may be held responsible for sharing the payment unless you and your spouse can agree otherwise. However, even if you agree that your spouse will be responsible for the loans, your name will likely remain on the loans and any failure to repay could affect your credit. Continue reading →

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A major part of any divorce case will likely be the equitable division of assets as directed under Florida law. Not all assets owned by the divorcing spouses will be subject to division, however, as only assets considered to be “marital property” must be divided. Marital property is anything owned by both spouses together while separate property is only owned by one spouse (and the owner spouse will get to keep that property). It is important to take particular care when you are deciding which property is classified as marital and which is separate. If you misclassify certain property, you may lose valuable assets in your divorce to which you otherwise would have been entitled.

Marital assets generally include any property that is acquired by either spouse through the duration of the marriage. This can include real estate, investments, retirement accounts, cash, and personal property. Even if only one spouse purchases a property or opens a retirement account, if he or she uses would-be marital funds to do so, the property will be considered marital regardless of the name(s) on the title. All too often, a spouse believes that because he or she started a business or titled a vehicle in only one name, that the property will be considered separate. In fact, in these situations, any business proceeds or vehicle equity acquired during the marriage should be divided between the spouses. If marital funds were used to acquire the property or if the proceeds of the property/assets would benefit both spouses, the classification should generally be “marital.” This can be confusing in many situations, so it is wise to review all property and asset classification with an experienced divorce attorney who understands Florida law. Continue reading →

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When most people think of equitable distribution of property in a divorce, they likely think of houses and properties, investments, and other monetary assets. However, there is usually a significant amount of personal property to be divided and making decisions regarding this kind of property can raise disputes and cause issues in a divorce. Like real property and assets, Florida law requires that personal property is divided equitably between the spouses, and agreeing on what is equitable can be challenging. The following is some information regarding handling personal property in your divorce.

Disagreements Can Be Costly

In the popular movie When Harry Met Sally, a main character is discussing divorce and states, “This eight dollar dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of That’s Mine, This Is Yours.” While intended to be humorous, this concept is unfortunately a reality for many contemptuous divorcing spouses. When spouses refuse to agree on certain issues, those issues must be decided by the court and such litigation can be costly. In order to avoid spending $1,500 in legal fees determining what happens to $300 worth of holiday decorations, it is always best that you and your spouse attempt to agree on how the personal property will be divided. If there are certain items that cause particular sticking points, a mediator may be able to provide a more efficient resolution than taking the issue before the court. Continue reading →

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Dividing money and property in a divorce can always be complex. However, the process can become more complicated if one or both spouses have retirement accounts. Like any other assets, investments, or property, the state of Florida requires equitable distribution of the retirement accounts between the spouses. The process of dividing retirement accounts can require additional paperwork, calculations, and more, so it is important to have an attorney on your side who understands how to negotiate for the fairest division of these accounts in accordance with Florida law.

One important tool in dividing rights to retirement accounts is the Qualified Domestic Relations Order, commonly called the QDRO. When a person owns a retirement account, he or she will likely initially be the only payee who will receive the proceeds of that account. However, retirement funds saved and invested during a marriage are considered to be marital property, even if the funds only came as a result of the job of one spouse. In the event of a divorce, one spouse may obtain the rights to also be an alternate payee for the retirement account.

However, certain plans such as those under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) will not simply pay the funds to an alternate payee without the appropriate paperwork. In such situations, a QDRO is needed to ensure the divided funds go to the former spouse or other dependent. Continue reading →

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Recent research has focused on the growing trend of older adults deciding filing for divorce. A study called “The Gray Divorce Revolution” conducted by sociologists at Bowling Green University focused on the rising number of divorces that occur in later stages of life. In 1990, less than one-tenth of divorcing individuals were over 50 years old, but today that number has increased significantly to one-fourth. In addition, one in ten divorcing spouses are over the age of 65, which is more than twice the number 30 years ago. With the increase in “gray divorces,” it is important to examine some of the legal issues that may be more prevalent for these divorcing spouses.

Keeping the House

Staying in the family home may not be a priority for many younger spouses who end their marriage, but older homeowners may have potential benefits in being awarded their house. The following are some benefits of homeownership in retirement years:

  • As you age, you may become eligible for tax waivers and exemptions for your real estate;
  • Owning a home can provide benefits when applying for Medicaid or other public benefits;
  • You may need the tax benefits of deducting mortgage interest to offset higher tax liability in retirement;
  • Homeowners age 62 or older become eligible for a reverse mortgage, which can help with financial support;
  • Even if you choose not to live in the home, it may provide rental income or significant equity if you have owned the home for a long time.

Continue reading →

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With the recent breach and data leak regarding approximately 32 million subscribers to the “married dating” website Ashley Madison, many married couples have likely been facing difficult situations as news of possible infidelity became exposed. It would not be surprising, in fact, if numerous couples end up in divorce court over a leaked Ashley Madison subscription. This leads to the common question: What role, if any, does a spouse’s adulterous behavior play in a subsequent divorce case?

Questions of Fault

In Florida, you must file for divorce on a “no-fault” basis, which means that no specific reason–such as adultery–can be given for the divorce. Insteading of blaming one spouse, all divorces are based on the assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken. For this reason, adultery has no effect specifically on basic questions of fault in a divorce.

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Celebrity divorces can be difficult, not only because of extensive media coverage but also because one or both of the spouses may have a significant amount of wealth. In one recent divorce, a wife is attempting to obtain a large portion of her husband’s $85 million fortune as well as a large amount of additional ongoing support.

The wife of songwriter, singer, and successful music producer Timbaland filed for divorce at the end of June. She previously filed in 2013 though that case was dismissed as they attempted to reconcile. Apparently that attempt at reconciliation was not successful, as now she has not only filed again but requested many different types of financial support, including the following:

  • Child support for both their biological daughter and her son from a prior relationship
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German media recently reported a story regarding an angry husband who decided to take the division of property into his own hands following a split with his wife of 12 years. The man posted a video on Youtube that showed him taking a chainsaw to many of his and his wife’s possessions and literally cutting them in half. The video shows the resulting half of a bicycle, a couch, a bed, a laptop, an iPhone, a teddy bear, and even their car. The husband claims he sent one set of halves to his wife and posted his own set on eBay.

While this husband’s video entertained millions of viewers and his actions garnered international attention, pulling such a stunt is not advisable in the face of divorce from a financial and legal standpoint. In fact, in a Florida divorce case, that husband would likely face financial consequences for destroying marital property in such a manner.

Property Division in Accordance with Florida Law

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Engagement and wedding rings are often an important symbol of a marriage. While these items often lose meaning after a married couple decides to file for divorce, they are often valuable pieces of property and each spouse may wonder who gets to keep the rings after the separation is finalized The answer to this question will depend on the particular circumstances surrounding your divorce, and an experienced attorney can better advise you after learning the specific details of your situation.

Are rings non-marital or marital property?

Rings are property just like a home, assets, furniture, or other valuables. Under most circumstances in Florida, each spouse is able to keep his or her own belongings brought into the marriage. Such belongings are referred to as non-marital or separate property. Florida divorce laws, however, require that all marital property be equitably divided between the two spouses. Equitable does not mean equal, and courts will take many different factors into consideration in deciding how to divide property.