Property division is often one of the most contentious aspects of the divorce process. How your property division plays out could significantly impact your future financial stability, so taking the division of assets and debts seriously is essential. Today, we're covering some tips that can help you navigate your property division case with more confidence.
Tip #1: Know How Your State Divides Property
States across the US use two types of property division laws: community property and equitable distribution.
Florida, like most states, is an equitable distribution state—that means the court divides property in a manner the judge considers 'fair and equitable' instead of just splitting property between the parties equally. For example, if the parties share a child, and the father receives sole custody, the court may give the father the entirety of the marital home to help him provide for the child.
In contrast, courts in community property states (like California) try and divide marital assets 50/50. In the above example, the court may ask the father and mother to sell the marital home and split the profits, regardless of the father's status as the custodial parent.
Tip #2: Be Honest About Your Assets and Liabilities
During the property division process, the court will ask both parties to provide a comprehensive list of all property, assets, and liabilities (such as debts) that they own. It's vital that you're completely honest with the court and fully divulge all your assets and liabilities during this process. Refusing to disclose the ownage of property to the court could result in penalties as the process continues.
Tip #3: Familiarize Yourself with Separate and Marital Property
During the property division process, property, assets, and liabilities that are 'separate' are ineligible for division by the court. The most common separate assets are those acquired before the marriage.
Marital property, on the other hand, includes all assets and liabilities that both parties contributed to during the marriage. Assets such as a shared marital home, joint bank accounts, shared vehicles, and joint retirement and investment accounts are all common examples of marital property.
However, some separate property can transition into marital property over the course of a marriage. For example, let's say you start an investment account before you get married. Once you get married, your spouse starts contributing meaningful amounts of money towards that investment account. That investment account is now probably marital property that the court will divide.
The potential for valuable separate assets such as businesses or investment accounts to turn into marital property is one reason why prenuptial agreements are so useful. A prenuptial agreement can prevent assets such as businesses from being divided during a divorce.
Tip #4: Evaluating Your Assets May Be Useful
Frequently, courts will employ a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who specializes in asset valuation to determine the value of assets during the property division process. However, it may be worth getting a jump on the process by hiring one yourself and having them evaluate your assets. Knowing what you stand to lose (or gain) can help you prepare for the future.
Tip #5: Pets Are Considered Property
If you share a pet with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, you'll have to determine who should keep the animal post-divorce. For many people, their family pet is more cherished than many financial assets, and deciding who gets to keep the family pet is often a stressful and frustrating part of the property division process.
Knowing this beforehand can enable you to compile a thorough argument for why you should retain the pet or, in a worst-case scenario, give you a little more time to say goodby and process the loss.
If you're involved in a property division case, you need an attorney you can trust. At Conti Moore Law, PLLC, our attorneys have a wealth of experience helping clients navigate property division cases.
For a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (407) 315-2006.