States have different rules about how property is divided at divorce. Florida law requires an equitable, or fair, division of property between the spouses. The law says that equitable usually means equal—but a judge who believes that a precisely equal division would be unfair can divide the property in a different proportion after considering all relevant factors, including the following:
- the length of the marriage
- each spouse’s economic circumstances
- any interruption in either spouse’s career or educational opportunities
- each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including contributions as a homemaker or parent,
- either spouses contribution to the career or educational opportunities of the other spouse
- each spouse’s contribution to acquiring or increasing income
- each spouse’s contribution to improving marital or nonmarital assets
- liabilities incurred by either spouse, whether affecting martial or nonmarital assets, and
- either spouse’s intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition for divorce or within 2 years prior to filing.
A Florida court dividing property will also consider how easy or difficult an asset is to divide. For example, a business started by one spouse during the marriage would generally be a marital asset, but in most cases the judge would award the business entirely to the operating spouse, while giving the other spouse other property or money to make up for it. A court won’t order a couple to divide a marital home–in other words, to each take part of the actual house–but the judge could order them to sell it and divide the proceeds. A judge also has the option of awarding one spouse the right to live in a marital home temporarily, if this seems to be the most equitable resolution. The court will give particular consideration to how this option might benefit any children who are still in school.
Some couples are able to agree on how to divide everything on their own, while others seek the help of attorneys or a mediator to negotiate a settlement. Couples who don’t manage to resolve property issues outside of court will end up going to court to ask for a decision from an arbitrator