St. Petersburg Equitable Distribution Lawyer
Even in a marriage of relatively short duration, the couple is likely to acquire a significant amount of property together – perhaps even a home (and home mortgage), furniture and appliances, a car or cars, and countless other items. Property (and debts) acquired during a marriage is marital property, and if the couple divorces, they have to decide – or the court has to decide – how to split up this property and debt between them. Florida law requires marital property to be divided in an equitable manner, meaning it must be fair. Courts look at a number of factors to decide what is fair, and every case is different. The St. Petersburg equitable distribution lawyers at Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., can advise you on property issues and represent you in negotiations, mediation, collaborative divorce or litigation. We’ll work to make sure your interests are adequately represented in the equitable distribution of marital property.
Marital Versus Nonmarital Property
Florida law defines marital assets and liabilities to include assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage by the spouses jointly or by either spouse individually. Additionally, to the extent that nonmarital property appreciated in value due to the efforts of either spouse during the marriage, that enhancement in value is also marital property. The paydown of principal on a mortgage secured by nonmarital real property can also be marital property, as are interspousal gifts made during the marriage. Either spouse’s pension and retirement and similar benefits, vested or nonvested, are also marital property to the extent they accrued during the marriage. Property that is jointly titled is presumed to be marital property unless one party can prove otherwise.
In contrast, nonmarital assets and liabilities include assets acquired and liabilities incurred prior to the marriage, along with other assets or liabilities acquired or incurred in exchange for those assets or liabilities. Assets acquired during the marriage are nonmarital if they were acquired separately by noninterspousal gift or inheritance, and all income derived from nonmarital assets is nonmarital so long as it was kept separately and treated as nonmarital property.
Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A., provides valuable assistance in identifying every asset and debt as marital or nonmarital and making sure it is accurately valued for equitable distribution. Our property division attorneys are well-versed in complex family law litigation and high net worth divorce cases; we can help ensure that all property is located and disclosed, even if a spouse is intentionally hiding assets or undervaluing them. Our lawyers additionally provide support before or during the marriage with prenuptial or postnuptial agreements that dictate in advance how the division of property should be approached. Our firm can aid in interpreting, challenging or enforcing such agreements as necessary.
Florida Equitable Distribution Factors
If the issue goes to court, the judge will look at a long list of factors to decide what kind of distribution is equitable. Generally, the court starts from the proposition that an equal distribution is fair, but any number of factors can justify a different outcome. Whether you are arguing for an equal or unequal (yet equitable) distribution, we’ll prepare a case backed by substantial evidence and strong legal arguments regarding the relevant factors. Factors the court considers are:
- The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
- The economic circumstances of the parties.
- The duration of the marriage.
- Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.
- The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
- The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.
- The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
- The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to the filing of the petition.
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Get Smart, Strong Representation Regarding Equitable Distribution in Your St. Petersburg Divorce
The division of marital property can be a crucial aspect of the divorce proceeding. Unlike issues of alimony or child custody, the property division can’t be modified if circumstances later change. Make sure you get it right the first time and get the property settlement you need by contacting the knowledgeable and experienced St. Petersburg divorce lawyers at Meros, Smith, Lazzara, Brennan & Brennan, P.A.