equitable distribution

What Is Equitable Distribution?

Dividing property and debt is one of the biggest challenges of divorce. Each party wants to ensure that he or she comes away with a fair settlement. No one wants to feel cheated or slighted in any way.  But since divorce is not a happy occasion, divorcing spouses may not be generous with each other during the settlement process. If you are considering filing for divorce,  look around for a good divorce lawyer. He or she will look out for your rights during the divorce proceedings. Divorce laws vary from state to state, so it is important to hire a lawyer with experience with divorce proceedings where you live.  Here are some critical facts about the equitable distribution of marital property during a divorce.

What Is Equitable Distribution?

There are two types of laws concerning the division of property during a divorce.  Some states have community property laws. In states with community property,  all marital property is divided equally between the two spouses. Other states have an equitable distribution of property.  In these states, marital property is fairly divided between the two spouses. Fair can mean an equal division of property but it does not have to be a 50/50 division.  Divorce laws call for equitable distribution in Florida during a divorce.

What Is Marital Property?

Marital property refers to any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage.  This refers to property that the couple bought together, such as a home or a car. This also refers to property acquired separately by either spouse, as long as the property was acquired during the marriage. Marital property includes not just assets such as a home but debts, including credit card debt, money, and benefits such as retirement benefits.

What Is Separate Property?

Separate property, or non-marital property, refers to property owned by just one spouse. Separate property includes property that one spouse owned before the marriage, gifts given to just one spouse during the marriage, or property inherited by just one spouse during the marriage.  This type of property remains separate. It also includes any assets defined as separate property in a prenuptial agreement. Separate property also includes income resulting from separate property, unless it was treated as shared income by the couple during the marriage. It also includes assets acquired from the exchange or sale of separate property.  For example, if one spouse owned a rental property before the marriage, then sold it and invested the money in the stock market, those stock investments would be considered separate property. 

What If There Is a Disagreement About Marital vs. Separate Property?

In some cases, it is very clear what is separate property and what is marital property.  In other cases, it is not. For example, if one spouse purchased a rental property before the marriage, that would typically be separate property.  But if the couple used their joint money to invest in the property during their marriage, a judge may conclude that the property is actually marital property.  It is tricky situations like these that require good legal counsel. An experienced divorce attorney can help defend your rights when it comes to marital property vs. separate property.

If you are considering filing for divorce and are concerned about equitable distribution of marital property, reach out to the Law Office of Paul H. Bowen.  He is one of the more experienced divorce lawyers in Florida, with almost 30 years of experience practicing family law.