The end of a marriage can be a painful, emotional time, but the legal process of divorce itself can be a dry, technical matter. This is especially true in cases where the couple does not have young children, and so there is no need for arguments over child custody and parenting plans. In these cases, most of the work of the divorce process is devoted to the division of property.
Florida law requires an equitable distribution of the marital property at the end of a marriage. All the marital assets and debts must be divided in a way that meets standards of fairness.
To reach this result, the parties must first list all their assets and liabilities. They can then divide personal property from marital property. For the most part, any assets or debts they acquired before the marriage are considered personal property, and anything acquired during the marriage is marital property.
Things get complicated when it comes to commingled assets. For instance, one spouse may have had an investment account before the marriage, and then combined it into a joint account with the other spouse during the marriage. During the marriage, the account increases in value. Now, this added value may be considered part of the marital property.
Assets that can lead to the biggest complications in property division include retirement accounts, stock options and other assets which cannot be liquidated without incurring serious tax penalties. Divorcing spouses may need help from valuation experts and others who can determine the value of the assets. From there, the parties can find a way to divide the value between them without actually liquidating the asset. For instance, one party may write a check to the other for half the value of the account.
Of course, while going through all the technical, financial and legal negotiations involved in property division, the parties involved may still be going through all the emotional turmoil that accompanies the end of a marriage. For these and other reasons, it is important to get help from an attorney who has experience in family law and can help clients understand their rights and legal options.