Divorce- Equitable Distribution Basics
Not all divorces are created equal and the simplicity or complexity of a case depends on whether the divorce involves property (personal or real estate), assets and liabilities, or children, amongst other considerations. A divorce can be quick and simple if you and your spouse have no children, no property, and no assets or liabilities together. In that case, the firm will prepare and file the necessary documentation on your behalf and attend a final hearing on your dissolution of marriage after which no additional litigation should be needed. On the other hand, a divorce can be difficult, draining, and stressful especially when you have invested time and money with your spouse and now you are concerned about what your divorce will do to the ownership of certain personal, intangible, or real estate property. As a spouse you have certain rights which you should retain, and the extent of those rights depend largely on a variety of factors.
If you and your spouse have accumulated assets throughout the course of your marriage including, but not limited to, retirement funds, savings accounts, valuable jewelry, brokerage accounts, real estate property, or business assets it would be necessary to conduct an equitable distribution analysis of all marital property to determine which assets need to be divided. Many times, the other spouse in the divorce fights to keep the marital residence or another asset that he or she feels they are more entitled to retain. It is in those situations where it is imperative to have an attorney on your side to fight for what is rightfully yours and reach a fair and reasonable distribution pursuant to the laws of Florida. In addition to assets, debt is also an issue in divorce. It is a myth to believe that the debt your spouse incurred during the marriage is solely his or hers. As a married couple, you may be required to pay some of your spouses student loans, credit card debt, or other liabilities.
This is why the exchange of full financial disclosure is mandatory in divorce Florida cases. Florida is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning, that in divorce proceedings all marital property is distributed amongst the husband and wife “equitably” (In other words, fairly). Sometimes this means a 50/50 division, other times it does not. In order for attorneys to obtain a clear financial picture of the marriage, an exchange of full disclosure of finances by both parties is mandatory by law. This is so that prior to the commencement of any possible litigation or reasonable settlement offers, the attorneys can obtain a full financial analysis of the marital assets and liabilities and negotiate equitable distribution accordingly. Full financial disclosure is also necessary to analyze, trace, and characterize certain assets and liabilities as “marital property” which must be divided, or “separate property” which remains with one individual spouse. The term “property” can mean anything from real estate property, tangible/physical property such as jewelry, antiques, and other valuables, or intangible property such as stocks or savings accounts. The characterization of property as “marital” or “separate” depends on when the property was acquired, how it was acquired, and whether or not there has been any co-mingling of pre-martial property and post-marital property, amongst other considerations.
In addition, if after receipt of the financial disclosure from the opposing party there is any suspicion of misconduct with marital funds or concealment of assets that a spouse may have legal entitlement to, we may utilize the financial information received to conduct depositions or request further discovery demands in order obtain further evidence needed to properly represent you and fight for the outcome you deserve.
There are many other components to a dissolution of marriage, such as alimony, the establishment of a time-sharing schedule, the establishment of a parenting plan, and calculation of child support payments. These topics are discussed in more detail in our separate articles dedicated to their explanation.
If you are anticipating a divorce and need competent, aggressive, and knowledgeable representation to preserve your rights contact Lace M. Hernandez, Esq. today for a consultation.