When a couple files for divorce in Florida, the court is supposed to divide their assets equitably, or fairly. “Equitable distribution” does not necessarily mean 50/50. Florida courts take several factors into account when dividing a couple’s property, which can include:
• the spouses’ incomes and earning potentials
• how long the couple has been married
• if one spouse made career sacrifices for the sake of the other spouse’s education or job
• how many minor children are in the home
• the spouses’ physical and mental health
• each spouse’s debts and assets
• other relevant factors
Based upon the particular circumstances of each case, and how the factors above apply to them, Courts do not necessarily divide martial assets equally though that is the presumption.
If one of the spouses had assets before the marriage, these may be considered “premarital” assets. Premarital assets stay with the spouse who had them even after the divorce unless one of a number of exceptions apply. Just because a spouse entered the marriage with a premarital asset, a house for example, does not mean the entire value of the house is premarital – the new spouse may be entitled to some interest.
In cases where a premarital asset like a house has appreciated in value during the marriage, the Court will take into account the “active appreciation” of a premarital asset in certain circumstances. Active appreciation means the asset increased in value due to the efforts of one or both spouses. For a house, this could mean marital funds were spent on improvements or one of the spouses worked on the house him or herself (what is known as “sweat equity”). In this case, Florida courts have ruled that although the house was a premarital asset at the time of marriage, that due to conduct after the marriage, the non-owner spouse may then be entitled to a payout from the house.
If you need guidance on whether or not an asset is considered marital or premarital, contact the attorneys at Harris Guidi Rosner P.A.