Miami Attorneys Manage Equitable Distribution in Florida Divorce
Detail-oriented approach protects your property rights
One of the most important divorce issues affecting your financial future is the division of your marital property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means the courts divide marital assets and debt in a manner that is fair but not necessarily equal. The process is subject to interpretation, and judges have great discretion in awarding individual assets and apportioning the whole of the estate. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to retain an experienced attorney who has handled marital estates similar in value to yours. At Rafool, LLC, we have a track record of success with high-net-worth and celebrity divorces. When you’ve got a great deal of wealth at stake in your litigation, you should only trust your case to a board-certified family law specialist.
How equitable distribution works in Florida
Equitable distribution is essentially a three-step process. Each of the steps requires knowledgeable assistance to fully protect your property rights. These steps involve:
- Identification — Property includes assets and debts. Each spouse must fully disclose their property and make the case for whether each item belongs to the marital estate or is a separate possession of the spouse. Rules for determining marital and nonmarital property are complex, so parties often dispute ownership at this stage of the proceeding. Assets and debts determined to be marital are placed in the marital estate. The existence of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is also relevant at this point of the proceedings. Often, a valid marital agreement that specifically designates property as separate can form the basis for a property settlement. At other times, a spouse may challenge an existing agreement, asking the court to declare it null and void.
- Valuation — A value has to be assigned to each item of the marital estate. This process often calls for expert appraisals for real estate, fine art, jewelry, retirement accounts, financial instruments, businesses, and other holdings. Valuations are also subject to controversy, and parties often hire their own experts to assess what an asset is worth. Business valuations can be especially tricky, because they involve more than revenue. Branding, customer goodwill and other intangibles can be difficult to assess.
- Distribution — Once the total value of the estate is known, the court applies various factors to determine what percentage of the whole each spouse is entitled to. If the court determines that a high-earning spouse is entitled to 65 percent of the marital estate, the task then becomes assigning certain assets that add up to 65 percent of the value. If that party wants a particular asset that exceeds 65 percent of the estate, the parties can negotiate a buyout.
Parties can resolve the equitable distribution of their property through negotiation, mediation, or litigation — or a combination of all three. For example, they may agree to abide by valuations offered by independent appraisers but ask the court to rule on the apportionment of the assets. However, any time parties ask a judge to rule, there is a chance of an adverse ruling. Many couples decide they are better off negotiating a property settlement, where they have greater control over the outcome.
Statutory factors Florida courts consider when deciding equitable distribution
In determining an equitable distribution, courts in Miami-Dade County must apply the factors listed in Florida Statutes §61.075, which include:
- 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 and nonmarital assets of the parties
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child
- 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
As your divorce counsel, we work diligently to demonstrate the application of these factors to the circumstances of your case, so that you can keep the fair share of the marital property you deserve.
For determined representation on property issues, schedule a consultation with our Miami firm
Rafool, LLC protects your financial rights throughout the equitable distribution process as we work for optimal results. Call us at (305) 567-9400 or contact our Miami office online to schedule a consultation.