Dividing marital assets can be one of the most difficult issues in a Florida divorce. State law requires the court to begin with the premise that “the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors …” An understanding of these “relevant factors” can help a person prepare for what can be a very fraught phase in a divorce proceeding.
The basic rule
The statute governing distribution of property in a Florida divorce enumerates ten factors that the court can consider in ordering an unequal distribution of marital property. These factors include:
- Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage. This factor includes contributions to the care and education of the children.
- Each party’s income and assets
- How long the marriage lasted
- Whether either party had to interrupt their personal career or education for the sake of the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the other spouse’s career or educational opportunities
- Either spouse’s acquisition or improvement of income
- Whether retaining the family home is desirable for the sake of a child
- Any waste of marital assets
As may be imagined, these factors can create as many disputes between the divorcing parties as they resolve. They nevertheless establish the boundaries of any dispute concerning the division of marital property.
Equity and justice
The legislative goal expressed in this statute emphasizes “equity” and “justice” as the guiding principles. Parties who argue for a property division that is manifestly unfair will most likely fare poorly in the eyes of the judge who will be writing the final order that divides the couple’s assets.
The better approach is careful preparation with a capable divorce attorney. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer will know the arguments that are likely to have a persuasive effect on the judge. The basic purpose of a divorce is to end an unhappy marriage – the purpose is not to inflict the maximum amount of financial and emotional harm on the other party.