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How do Florida courts divide property in a divorce?

Resolving how to split up property is one of the most important things that couples must settle during the divorce process. If they cannot reach a mutual agreement, a court will divide property according to the doctrine of equitable distribution.

The majority of states use this approach to divide property in divorce proceedings. Rather than split all of a couple’s assets 50-50, Florida statutory law requires judges to make determinations about dividing property based on equity rather than equality. The goal of this approach is to create an outcome that would be fair for both parties based on their individual circumstances.

Identify marital property

Courts in Florida divide only assets that are marital property. For the most part, assets that spouses acquire over the course of a marriage are marital property. There are some exclusions such as gifts and inheritances. Debts may also be subject to division in the same manner as assets.

Evaluate equitability

A number of factors guide courts’ analyses of how to distribute assets and debts fairly. The length of the marriage may be a key element. In addition, courts may consider the parties’ wealth and earning capacities. In the absence of substantive evidence to review at a hearing, a court could find that a 50-50 split would yield the most equitable outcome.

Courts generally divide property before deciding whether either party may receive spousal support, so it is one of the first steps in the divorce process. However, they may grant an interim order before ruling on property distribution if a party petitions for temporary support.