Equitable Distribution And Divorce: A Three Step Process
Splitting up property in a divorce is difficult—particularly for high net worth couples who own complex assets. Under Florida law (Florida Statute § 61.075), a divorcing couple’s marital property is split in an “equitable” manner. Courts have developed a three-step process to apply the state’s equitable distribution standard. In this article, our Coral Springs and Boca Raton divorce attorney highlights the three-step process for equitable distribution in Florida.
A Three-Step Process for Dividing Assets in a Divorce
Florida law defines an equitable distribution as a fair distribution. It may or may not be an even (50-50) split of the marital assets. As the Florida Second District Court articulates in the 2016 case of Keurst v. Keurst, there is a three-step process for applying the state’s equitable distribution standard in a contested divorce case:
- Identification: The equitable distribution process begins with the identification of all marital and non-marital assets. While non-marital assets are not actually subject to equitable distribution in a divorce, their existence could affect what the court views to be a “fair” division of the marital assets. All property and debts must be identified before the process can move forward.
- Valuation: The next step in the equitable distribution process is valuation. For some assets, valuation is straightforward. For example, there is little doubt over the value of the proceeds of a saving account. However, valuation can also be quite challenging for certain assets. Real estate can be difficult to value. Business interests can be difficult to value. Some forms of personal property can be difficult to value. Valuation is often an issue of dispute in contested high net worth divorce cases. A forensic accountant may be relied upon to determine the value of certain assets.
- Distribution: The final stage of the equitable distribution process is the actual distribution of the assets. Once a court has identified and valued all assets, it can determine what constitutes a fair and equitable division of property given the specific circumstances of the case.
An Equitable Distribution is a Fair Distribution: Case-By-Case Basis
Ultimately, there is no one set formula for dividing marital assets and marital debts in a divorce. A Florida court is tasked with determining what constitutes a fair distribution of assets given the specific circumstances of the couple’s relationship. When a divorcing couple can reach their own property division settlement, Florida courts give them wide deference to do so. If you are working towards a property division agreement or you are locked in a dispute, an experienced South Florida divorce attorney can help you find the best solution.
Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a Divorce Lawyer
At Williams & Varsegi, LLC , our Coral Springs and Boca Raton property division lawyers have experience handling high net worth divorce cases. If you have questions about equitable distribution, we can help. Get in touch with us by phone or send us a message to arrange your fully confidential initial consultation. From our legal offices in Boca Raton, we provide divorce representation throughout Palm Beach County, including in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Wellington, Delray Beach, and Greenacres.