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What Is Equitable Distribution?


Each state has its own system for dividing up a couple’s property upon divorce. Some states, for instance, use a community property standard, which means that divorcing couples must split all of their marital assets 50/50. Florida, on the other hand, adheres to the equitable distribution standard, under which couples receive a fair and just portion of their marital assets. While this may sound simple enough, it can actually end up being a pretty complex process. Read on to learn more about the equitable distribution standard and how it is applied in Florida.

The Equitable Distribution Standard 

The equitable distribution standard was formed based on the idea that divorcing spouses should retain a fair portion of marital assets upon divorce. It’s important to note, however, that equitable doesn’t necessarily mean equal, so it’s not uncommon for one spouse to receive more than the other in marital property when they divorce. This process begins when two spouses are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide their marital property, or assets acquired (by either spouse) during the marriage. This includes real estate, vehicles, bank account funds, stocks and bonds, retirement benefits, pensions, and personal possessions, like jewelry and furniture. All of these assets must be divided fairly between the parties in the event of divorce. Importantly, the same standard applies to debts incurred during the marriage, including student loans or medical bills. Separate property, on the other hand, or assets that were acquired before the marriage took place, typically remain in the sole possession of the original owner.

Determining Fairness 

When determining what would qualify as an equitable split of these assets, courts look at a variety of factors, including:

  • How long the couple was married;
  • The contributions made by each party during the marriage, including contributions to the care of a couple’s children or as a homemaker;
  • Both parties’ incomes and separate assets;
  • Each party’s contribution to the career or education of the other;
  • Whether one party wishes to retain a particular asset intact and free from interference after the divorce, such as a professional practice or business interest;
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition or enhancement of the parties’ marital assets;
  • Whether the parties share minor children; and
  • Whether one spouse intentionally wasted or depleted marital assets within the last two years.

How these factors play out in a particular case will depend on a couple’s specific circumstances. If, for instance, a couple has minor children together and share a home, then the court may decide to award sole ownership of the residence to the parent with primary custody. If, on the other hand, one of the parties owns a business, then a judge could award the entirety of that business to one person. In exchange for giving up the entirety of an asset, one party could be given a greater share of another property. 

Dividing Assets in a Divorce 

Dividing property during divorce can be complicated. Fortunately, divorcing couples don’t have to go through this process alone, but could benefit from the assistance of an experienced attorney. Our dedicated Fort Lauderdale property division legal team will work closely with you to ensure that your assets are protected in an equitable manner. Call Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 to get started.




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