When people get married, they often combine their financial accounts and resources and consider their property to be mutually owned. When couples decide to divorce, though, one of the biggest points of contention is property division. While Florida has laws pertaining to the distribution of assets in divorces, the courts have discretion in determining what is fair. Depending on how a court rules, these decisions can have a significant impact on a person’s wealth. If you wish to end your marriage or were recently served with divorce papers, it is critical to meet with a lawyer as soon as possible to evaluate your options. The knowledgeable Cape Coral family law attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are skilled at helping people fight to defend their rights in divorce matters, and if you hire us, we will zealously advocate on your behalf. We regularly help people with family law issues in Cape Coral and other cities throughout Florida.Characterization of Property in a Divorce
Under Florida law, property owned by spouses is defined as either marital or nonmarital. Generally, marital assets include any property incurred by either spouse during the marriage, including income, real estate, and benefits in retirement funds or profit-sharing programs. It also includes the increase in value or appreciation of any nonmarital asset that is brought about by the efforts of either party during the marriage or results from the expenditure of marital funds. Gifts given by one spouse to another and personal property that is jointly owned are considered marital property as well.
Nonmarital assets include those acquired before the marriage, income derived from a nonmarital asset unless it was treated like a marital asset, and property obtained via a gift from someone outside of the marriage or a bequest or devise. Property can also be expressly defined as nonmarital via a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement entered into the parties as well. In many divorce cases, the parties will dispute whether an asset is marital or nonmarital, but parties arguing that property presumed to be marital is, in fact, separate property must prove their position via evidence that is convincing and clear.Equitable Property Division
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that in divorce actions, a court will divide marital property in a manner that it deems fair and just. Nonmarital property remains the separate property of the spouse to whom it belongs. The law dictates that a court tasked with distributing marital assets must begin with the premise that the division should be equal. The courts have the discretion to distribute property in an unequal manner, though, and will consider numerous factors to determine whether one spouse should be granted a greater share of the marital property.
Considerations a court may weigh in determining a fair distribution include the economic situation of the parties and what each person contributed to the marriage in terms of income, childcare, and household services. The court will also look at the length of the marriage, whether either party contributed to the career or educational advancement of his or her spouse or experienced an interruption in work or schooling. Additionally, courts will examine whether it is beneficial for either party to retain an asset, like a business or professional practice, and whether it is appropriate for either party to keep the marital home as a residence for any minor children the couple shares. Finally, the court will evaluate whether either person intentionally dissipated or depleted marital property within two years before the divorce or after the divorce action was filed and any other factor it deems relevant.Speak to a Dedicated Attorney in Cape Coral
Typically, a divorce not only changes peoples’ relationship status but also results in substantial changes to their property ownership. If you believe the end of your marriage is imminent, it is wise to speak to a lawyer about what measures you can take about property division. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A., our attorneys are proficient at helping people navigate the complexities of divorce matters, and we have the knowledge and resources to help you seek a just outcome. We regularly represent people in divorce cases in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples, where our offices are located. You can contact us at 800-283-7442 or through our online form to set up a complimentary meeting.