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In Florida, per applicable statutes, all marital assets and liabilities are “identified as such” on the date the divorce action is filed. The court follows the presumption is that all marital property will be divided equally; however, this presumption is rebuttable.  Therefore, even though the court will ascertain which assets are marital and which are non-marital on the date of filing, this does not mean the assets will be divided equally nor does it mean they will be valued on that date.

Moreover, there are caveats in Florida when it comes to the division of assets and liabilities. The first caveat is known as the “marital interest” in property that is otherwise considered as non-marital. For example, one spouse could own a home prior to the marriage, which home is technically non-marital; however, during the marriage, the other spouse might exert marital effort to increase the value of that home or make other contributions to the home. When that happens, the other spouse can create a “marital interest” in an otherwise non-marital property. There is a complicated formula that is used when this happens with real property in order to calculate the marital interest. Either way, we are now looking at awarding a spouse a marital interest in a non-marital property.  It is important to have competent counsel help to navigate through his complex process/formula.

Likewise, non-marital property can easily be commingled or otherwise converted to marital property, even inadvertently and unintentionally, and thus, this property, which was otherwise considered as non-marital, has now been converted to marital property and is divisible in an equitable distribution scheme by the court. Again, it is important to retain counsel to help navigate these complex issues.

Another example is the court’s inherent ability to utilize the division of assets and liabilities to assist with the support needs of a party.  The court can award assets in lieu of alimony, as a form of lump sum alimony, for example, when the facts of a specific case warrant it. This can include the application of the caveats mentioned above.

Lastly, the court has authority to value assets at any time and different assets can be divided or valued at different dates.  Even if the assets are “identified” at the time of filing, they could be valued at a different date.  For example, if a couple has been separated for a number of years, the court might use the separation date as the valuation date of property that is marital. That means a marital asset could increase in value from separation date until the filing of the divorce date and yet, the portion of the marital asset which grew in value from the separation date until the filing date is not divided. The same thing can happen in reverse and a judge can value an asset at the time of divorce because that is the equitable time to value the asset.

Equitable distribution can be complicated, and it can be an anxiety-inducing experience for many spouses. To make the process go as smoothly as possible, it is essential to have an experienced Jacksonville divorce attorney at The Lasky Law Firm assisting you with your case. We can help navigate and understand the equitable distribution  process. Do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.


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