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Equitable Doesn’t Always Mean Equal: The Rules of Marital Property Division in Florida

When you find yourself facing a divorce, there may be several financial concerns on your mind. One of those concerns may be the distribution of marital assets that the court will order as part of the resolution of the divorce case. One thing that you should keep in mind as the case proceeds is that the distribution of marital assets may not necessarily be 50-50. The law requires an equitable distribution, but not an equal distribution, and there are many reasons why an unequal distribution might be equitable. To make sure you get what the law says you deserve, make sure you have retained knowledgeable South Florida divorce counsel to represent you.The divorce case of J.K. and E.P. was an example of an unequal equitable distribution. The spouses were two people who came into their marriage with two very different financial profiles. J.K. was a CPA who was deeply in debt. E.P. was a self-employed realtor, and she had amassed substantial wealth.

During the marriage, the couple bought a house for $412,000. The home’s down payment, in addition to the monthly mortgage payments, was made using the wife’s premarital assets. Also during the marriage, the couple remodeled the home, spending more than a half-million dollars on that project. Despite outlays of more than $910,000, the house was only worth $575,000, even after renovation. Nevertheless, when the couple divorced, the husband asserted that he was entitled to a 50% cut from the $163,000 appreciation in the value of the home.

In many situations, a spouse would be entitled to 50% of a marital asset. However, the law in Florida demands an equitable distribution of marital property, rather than an equal distribution of marital property. What that means, in plain English, is that the goal of the courts in distributing assets after a divorce is to arrive at a fair outcome, whether that outcome is equal or unequal.

In this case, the wife had ample facts to persuade the court that the only equitable division of assets was an unequal one. The trial court made specific findings that the wife entered the marriage with significant assets; the husband entered the marriage with significant debt. The couple did not have a pre-nuptial agreement. (As a brief aside, when you and your spouse enter a marriage with financial profiles as dramatically disparate as J.K. and E.P.’s were, a pre-nuptial agreement might be well worth considering. While few engaged couples like to think about such things, a high-quality pre-nuptial agreement has the potential to provide both of you with a degree of certainty and assurance as you enter into marriage.)

The trial court also found that the marriage was a short-term one and that the home’s down payment, mortgage payments, and renovation costs were all paid by the wife’s pre-marital wealth. The husband effectively had contributed nothing monetarily to the house. Based on those facts, awarding the husband 50% of the home’s appreciation would be inequitable.

Whether you are contesting an issue of alimony, equitable division of property, or some other divorce issue, Miami divorce attorney Sara Saba is here to help. Attorney Saba has been providing useful advice and effective advocacy to her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

Calculating the Marital Portion of Passive Appreciation of Non-Marital Property in a Florida Divorce, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 16, 2018

What Happens to Marital Assets that are Expended During the Pendency of Your Florida Divorce?, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 5, 2018