Under Florida law, all marital property is equitably distributed between spouses that are divorcing. Marital property includes all debts and assets that a couple accumulates during a marriage. For couples that have been together since they were in school, this often raises the question of whether professional degrees or licenses allowing one of the spouses to engage in a particular profession are considered marital property. This is particularly at issue in situations where one party to the marriage chose to forgo his or her own educational or career opportunities in order to support the other spouse in their pursuits.
In Florida and most other states, the answer to the question posed above is “no.” Importantly, while a professional degree itself is not considered marital property, there are other arguments that can be raised in order to ensure that the spouse without the professional degree or license has his or her financial needs met after a divorce.
The Florida Alimony Statute
Under the Florida alimony statute, courts are authorized to use a variety of factors in determining whether either party will be awarded alimony. In addition, alimony can be “bridge-the-gap,” rehabilitative, duration, or permanent, and can be awarded as both periodic payments or lump sum payments, or both. Courts are allowed to consider whether either spouse was unfaithful in determining how much alimony to award, and can also consider the following factors:
· The standard of living the couple had during the marriage;
· How long the marriage lasted;
· Both parties age and physical condition;
· The financial resources of each party, including both marital and nonmarital assets;
· The earning potential, job skills, and employability of each part, as well as the time it would take for either party to get the training or education that would allow that party to become employed;
· Each party’s contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, education, child care, and career building of the other party;
· The responsibility that either party will have in terms of any children of the marriage;
· The tax ramifications to either party of an alimony award;
· The sources of income available to each party; and
· Any other factor that may be necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
As this list should make clear, courts have wide discretion in determining whether and how much alimony to award, and it specifically addresses the situation in which one spouse contributed to the education or career building of the other spouse. As a result, while a professional degree or license earning during the marriage will not be valuated and divided as part of the division of property, any contribution to that degree or license will be a factor in determining whether and how much alimony to award.
A specific type of alimony that may be awarded in a circumstance where one spouse forwent education in order to support the other is considered rehabilitative alimony. The alimony law authorizes that alimony may be awarded to a party seeking self-support through the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience to develop work skills or credentials.
Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
Divorce proceedings in Florida can raise a number of legal issues that may have a significant impact on a person’s life. As a result, anyone who is considering or currently going through a divorce should call Florida divorce attorney Alan R. Burton today at (954) 229-1660.