How Florida Divides Property and Debt in a Divorce

Navigating the emotional and legal complexities of divorce can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to dividing property and debt. If you're facing this difficult process in Florida, understanding how the state approaches the distribution of assets and liabilities is crucial.  

Understanding Equitable Distribution in Florida

Florida is an "equitable distribution" state, meaning that marital assets and debts will be divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The court begins with the premise that distribution should be equal, but several factors can lead to an adjustment of this 50/50 starting point.

When considering the distribution of assets and debts, the court will look at:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse
  • The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as a homemaker
  • The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunities of the other spouse
  • The intentional waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within two years before filing

Marital vs. Non-Marital Assets and Debts

The first step to distributing property and debts is classifying each as marital or non-marital. Marital assets and debts are generally those acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. On the other hand, non-marital or separate assets and debts include:

  • Items owned by either spouse before the marriage
  • Inheritances or gifts received by one spouse alone, not including gifts between spouses
  • Assets and liabilities excluded from marital property via a written agreement (like a prenuptial agreement)

In some cases, non-marital assets can become marital assets, a process known as "commingling." For instance, if one party's pre-marriage bank account was used to support the household, it might be deemed a marital asset.

The Division Process

Once all assets and debts have been classified, the court will assign monetary values and begin the equitable distribution process. Florida courts try to split marital property and debts fairly, which typically involves some negotiation and perhaps creative structuring to reach an amicable settlement.

For example, one spouse may keep the marital home while the other takes a more significant share of retirement accounts to offset the value. With debts, the court often assigns responsibility to the party best able to pay, or in some instances, debts may be divided equally.

Practical Considerations

Divorcing spouses are often encouraged to work out an agreement independently or through mediation. This allows for more control over the outcome and can avoid the uncertainty and expense of a trial. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, the court will decide on the division for them.

Strategies to Protect Your Interests

To protect your interests:

  • Inventory all of your assets and debts as early as possible
  • Avoid commingling non-marital assets with marital ones
  • Provide full financial disclosure to negate any chance of hidden asset allegations
  • Consider hiring experts such as appraisers or financial advisors

St. Augustine Family Law Attorneys

At Canan Law, we understand the complexities of equitable distribution and the emotional weight it carries for those going through a divorce. Our experienced attorneys are committed to guiding you through every step of the process with compassion and expertise. If you're facing the challenges of dividing assets and debts in Saint Augustine, FL, contact us at (904) 849-2266 to get started. 


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