Fort Lauderdale Marital Asset Divison Lawyer
Attentive law firm assisting you with your marital property and debt division
Under Florida law, marital assets and liabilities are equitably, or fairly but not necessarily equally, divided between spouses. At Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, we understand that asset and debt division is one of the most difficult parts of your dissolution of marriage. Our skilled Fort Lauderdale division of marital assets lawyer works diligently with you to protect your interests.
How are marital assets determined?
The division of marital property is an antecedent to and separate from an alimony determination. Marital asset division begins by defining property as marital or nonmarital. Typically, any asset gained or liability incurred during the marriage is considered marital. Marital assets are defined by statute and specific examples include:
- Appreciation in value of nonmarital assets during the marriage
- Gifts between spouses during the marriage
- Vested and nonvested rights acquired during the marriage, including pensions, retirement accounts and insurance plans
- Real property held in tenancy by the entirety
- All jointly titled personal property
Conversely, nonmarital property is defined as:
- Assets acquired separately by gift, conveyance or inheritance
- Assets and liabilities incurred prior to marriage
- Any debt due to signing your spouse’s name fraudulently
Typically, you do not have to wait until the actual divorce is granted to acquire new nonmarital property. Florida courts consider the date that a valid separation agreement is signed or the date of the petition for dissolution as the cut-off date for marital assets and liabilities. Any assets gained or debts incurred after that date are nonmarital, absent any exceptional circumstances.
How can a prenuptial agreement influence the division of property?
The parties can agree upon marital and nonmarital property in a marital settlement agreement (MSA), postnuptial agreement, prenuptial agreement or as part of the traditional divorce procedure. A prenuptial agreement, or prenup, is signed prior to the marriage. A prenup can be a valuable planning tool that can divide property before relations between spouses sour and collaboration becomes difficult or impossible. A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenup except that it is agreed to during the marriage. These agreements, subject to court approval, can define whether property is marital or nonmarital ahead of time. While prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can be challenged, if they are fair and drafted properly, they are extremely difficult to defeat. Essentially, an agreement can anticipate and solve marital property concerns thereby reducing litigation, conflict and expense.
Essentially, you and your spouse must divide the marital assets if you wish to minimize court involvement. You may divide the property with a contract, whether ahead of time with a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement or after the fact with an MSA. However, if you and your spouse do not reach an equitable distribution, the court then reaches one for you.
What Happens to the Family Home?
A house is often the most valuable piece of property a couple owns. Not only does a house serve as a primary family residence, but it can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, a mortgage is likely the greatest debt that the couple may have. Before you can decide who gets the home, it is important to ensure it is actually marital property. For example, if you owned the home before you got married, it may be considered separate property. However, if your family lived in the home or if your spouse contributed to the mortgage payments, it may be converted into marital property.
If a home is marital property–which it commonly is–there are different solutions for dividing up the asset, including:
- Selling the home and splitting the proceeds;
- One spouse keeps the home and compensates the other spouse for their ownership interest;
- If a spouse cannot afford to fully buy the other out, they might keep the home and give the other spouse a greater portion of investments or property as compensation.
These decisions can also be influenced by whether one parent has primary custody as you may want to keep the children in the same home and schools.
Issues in High Asset Divorces
In some cases, equitable division of marital property is relatively straightforward. However, division of property can be particularly complicated when a couple has a high net worth. When a couple has high assets, they often have many different types of accounts and property in various locations and it can be difficult to identify and locate all assets as well as decide the most equitable division. The following are some common issues in high worth divorces:
Business valuation — One or both spouses may have business interests in one or more companies. Dividing business interests can be challenging as it will make the other spouse part-owner of a company. In addition, a spouse may not want to sell their business interests to divide the proceeds.
Hidden accounts — Many people with extreme wealth may have off-shore or other hidden accounts meant to shield assets from the IRS and other entities. Unfortunately, this can be problematic in a divorce because such accounts can allow a spouse to hide assets from the divorce court.
One spouse may have little knowledge of the finances — In many high-worth households, one spouse may not have to work and may have little involvement in the financial affairs. This can give the other spouse greater power and control when it comes to asset division negotiations.
Multiple properties — Deciding how to divide up one house can be challenging and it only becomes more complicated if there are multiple vacation homes and other investment properties. Many of these properties may have to be sold, which can be time-consuming and can delay divorce proceedings.
Valuable collections — If a married couple owns valuable art, antique, or jewelry collections, dividing them can be a complex process, especially if they do not want to sell the collections. Such collections can also have emotional value, which can result in disputes over how to divide them.
Call our Fort Lauderdale asset division lawyer for a free consultation
At Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, we can help you understand the standards for equitable distribution and advocate for your interests. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, our office is conveniently located just three blocks from the county courthouse, north of Davie Boulevard, in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Call us today at 954.817.0402 or contact us online. Our office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and we offer Saturday appointments upon request.