For readers of divorce headlines, the discussion is usually on who gets what and payments. However, for many divorcing couples, the most important item to be split is liabilities, commonly known as debt. After all, Americans owe a mountain of debt, including mortgages, student loans, credit cards, cars, etc. And, while this debt may not be a big deal during the marriage, it quickly becomes a potential problem in divorce.
Equitable distribution pre-separation
In Florida, family law judges use an equitable distribution model. In our state, this means that the judge’s default is an equal share of the marital estate between the spouses. However, they can deviate from this 50-50 split if they can justify it based on several factors in Florida statutes. This includes both assets and liabilities, which means if there is some fault or blame found on one side, they could receive more debt.
However, the date used for valuing your property is done by the judge. In that decision, they use equitable principals, and different assets can have different dates, which is also at the judge’s discretion.
Debts after separation
While debts during the marriage are split equitably between the spouses, the cut-off date for equitable distribution is when the couple entered a valid separation agreement, a date set within that agreement or the date the petition for dissolution of marriage was filed, whichever date is soonest.
What about alimony?
Some divorcing spouses think that the alimony calculation is done in conjunction with property division. This is a natural conclusion as it is logical to do both calculations together to avoid a windfall to one spouse. However, Florida family law judges actually have discretion on this. They can do both separately or together.
What does this all mean?
As our St. Petersburg, Florida, readers can likely tell, family court judges in our state have broad discretion. If the couples do not want to be left to the whims of these judges, they should work together to find common ground and agree on an asset and liability split prior to going before the judge.