Articles Tagged with division of property

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The longer a couple has been married, and the more assets they have, the more complicated the case tends to be if they divorce. Perhaps the most bitter divorce battles center around the physical custody of minor children and the right to make decisions related to their upbringing. When a couple does not have minor children, the biggest disagreements usually have to do with the division of property. Florida courts have clear rules about what is marital property and what is non-marital property, but there is still room for complicated situations to arise in which each spouse can make a claim to a certain asset. For example, if one spouse earned a lot more money than the other during the marriage, how should that money be divided? If one spouse used the couple’s money irresponsibly, how does that affect the court’s decision about how to divide the property?

Florida’s Equitable Distribution Doctrine

Florida courts divide divorcing couples’ property according to the principle of equitable distribution. In other words, they go by what is fair. They do not always divide marital property evenly, and they do not simply take into account how much income each spouse brought in and then let each spouse keep only the money he or she earned. Florida law also considers unpaid contributions to the marriage as reasons a person is entitled to a certain share of the marital property. For example, time spent as a stay-at-home parent also counts as a contribution. The logic is that, when taking care of the children full time, the stay-at-home parent spouse was freeing up the other spouse to concentrate more on earning money.

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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