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How does a Florida court divide assets and debts?

During a divorce, the topic pertaining to division of assets and debts can grow complex very quickly. Both assets and debts fall under two categories, referred to as marital and non-marital.

When two people accumulate wealth and assets together as a married couple, the accumulated property falls under the label of marital property and is generally subject to division and distribution upon divorce. Any assets and property that each party had or accumulated prior to marriage falls under the label of non-marital property. Similarly, debt amassed prior to marriage is usually non-marital debt, while most of the time any debt accumulated during marriage is considered marital debt.

Assets include cash, investments such as stocks & bonds, any joint accounts, homes, cars, retirement plans, business interests, other personal property such as boats, jewelry, painting and even collectible items. In essence, any property that has value will typically be considered an asset. Debt on the other hand, also commonly known as liability, refers to outstanding credit card balances, loans, mortgages and any money the parties owe to third parties.

Current Florida law calls for the equitable distribution of marital assets and debt. Thus, Florida courts initially begin with the presumption that all marital assets and debts are to be divided equally between the parties. However, it is important to keep in mind a court takes several factors into account to divide assets and debts fairly and equitably between the parties. This does not necessarily mean equally.

Factors that a court takes into consideration when dividing assets and debt include contributions each party made during the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the economic circumstances of the parties during marriage and at the time of divorce. However, it is important to keep in mind that parties can come to an agreement on how they would like the assets and debts to be divided. If the agreement between the parties is fair and reasonable, a court is likely to accept it. However, if the parties cannot agree, which is often the case in a high asset divorce, then a court will look at the factors to make a determination on property division.

Source: The Florida Bar, "Divorce in Florida," Accessed Aug. 3, 2015

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