Equitable Distribution of Assets and Debts Attorney
The process of dividing up assets and debts in a marriage is called equitable distribution. While other issues such as alimony and child support may be modified based on a substantial change in circumstances, the equitable distribution of assets is only done one time. Therefore, it is important that you have an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process.
"Equitable distribution is more than just dividing your assets in half. Don't lose more than what the law says is yours."
The law states that a court must begin the with the premise that the distribution should be equal unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors. The factors 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 assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.
- The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
- The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
- Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
By definition, non-marital assets are exempt from the equitable distribution of the marital assets. Assets and liabilities incurred during the marriage are marital. So what assets are considered non-marital?
As a general rule, assets acquired prior to the marriage are non-marital. Any income generated from a non-marital asset would therefore, also be considered non-marital, unless it is treated as marital. For example, if one spouse had a home pre-marriage and used that home as a rental property post-marriage, and always kept that rental income in a separate account, never depositing that money into a joint account, then that house and rental income would remain non-marital. However, if the spouse refinance the house during the marriage, and titled it in both parties' names, and used rental funds for vacations for both parties, then the house and rental income have become marital assets.
Because the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities can have important tax consequences, and because some spouses are unwilling to disclose their true assets, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side.
If you are facing a divorce in Lakeland or anywhere in Polk County, please contact us online or call us at (863) 825-5309 for a consultation with Lakeland Family Law Attorney Heather Bryan regarding your rights.