What does unequal distribution of assets mean in Florida divorce? Florida unequal distribution of marital assets may occur when one or both spouses ask the family circuit judge to divide marital assets and liabilities (marital property) unequally, or more or less than equally (50/50). The starting point for answering Florida Equitable Distribution Statute 61.075 confirms that Florida is an equitable distribution state. Being an equitable distribution state means that Florida courts start with a presumption that marital property shall be divided equally. However, a court/judge may rule against equal distribution and instead find in favor of the unequal distribution of marital assets and liabilities. While the court’s findings must be written and provide the reasons in support of its decision, there is rarely an absolute answer to how Florida courts will rule when asked to unequally distribute marital property. Such a decision is based primarily on a fact specific inquiry and balanced against case law and the aforementioned Florida Equitable Distribution Statute. Call 407-335-8113 to speak with an Orlando Family Lawyer about your divorce.
What does unequal distribution of assets mean in Florida divorce?
Florida Equitable Distribution Statute 61.075(1) addresses Florida unequal distribution of marital assets, and provides the court’s process for dividing marital property: “In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage…the court shall set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities, and in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.” Unpacking the Legislature’s language requires a careful eye for detail. First, the court must decide what assets and liabilities are marital, and which are non-marital. Nonmarital assets (for example) may include inheritance monies that have never been commingled, or pre-marital real property that have not been improved, re-titled jointly, or otherwise. This process will allow the court to rule on marital assets to determine alimony, property distribution, child support, and other important issues in a case.
Florida Equitable Distribution Statute
What does unequal distribution of assets mean in Florida divorce? Perhaps most important to the Florida unequal distribution of marital assets discussion is that the divorce court starts with the premise (slightly different meaning than presumption) that distribution should be equal. This does not mean that if there are ten properties, that each party will as a guarantee receive five. It is more of a balancing of the equities based on the overall value of each property, the length of the marriage, the needs of both parties, whether there are any minor children and what their needs may be, as well as any and all other statutory factors needed to do equity. Let’s take a look at a Fifth District Court of Appeals case that addresses this topic.
In the 5th DCA case, Foley v. Foley, the Court ruled that the title of a home in and of itself, is not grounds for unequal distribution. The divorce court must make factual findings identifying real property as marital or non-marital and determine how to equitably or unequally distribute for the parties. See King v. King, 273 So. 3d 233, 235 (Fla. 2D DCA 2019) and Foley v. Foley, 19 So.3d 1031, 1032 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009) (“Because title alone is insufficient to support an unequal distribution of the property, the trial court should have made findings as to whether the house was a marital or nonmarital asset and stated its reasons for awarding the house solely to the former husband.”).
Unequal distribution of marital assets in Florida based on the Florida Equitable Distribution Statute is infrequently awarded by the trial court. Florida unequal distribution of marital assets must be accompanied by written findings and must be proven to the court. Simply purchasing a home during a marriage and conveniently titling it in one spouse’s name only generally does not qualify it to be non-marital property absent other facts. Call Jacobs Law Firm, Orlando divorce attorney for your consultation 407-335-8113.