What You Need to Know About Who Gets What in a Divorce

Going through divorce can be overwhelming. To some, it is merely an emotional battle that parties endure while trying to end a broken relationship. To others, it is much more involved. Why? Because during the time you and your spouse were married, you accumulated things. Houses, cars, money, debts . . . the list goes on. So what happens to all of these things once you get divorced? Simply put, the assets obtained, and the debts incurred, are divided between you and your spouse.

You would think that property distribution should be pretty easy: what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours, right? Not exactly. When considering “who gets what” in a dissolution of marriage (“divorce”), Florida courts consider whether the property in question is considered marital property or non-marital property. Marital property encompasses any assets and debts acquired, either individually by either spouse or jointly, during the marriage, including real property, personal property titled jointly, retirement funds accumulated during the marriage, annuities, and inter-spousal gifts. Conversely, non-marital property generally includes property that each party possessed prior to the marriage. In addition, bank accounts that only contain non-marital funds, as well as inheritances and gifts one party receives during the marriage (excluding inter-spousal gifts), are considered non-marital property.

While non-marital property tends to remain with the party to whom it belongs, marital property is subject to equitable distribution, which ensures that the property is distributed fairly between the parties. This does not always mean that every piece of property is split 50/50; rather, the property is divided such that each party receives an equitable share. For example, if the parties own one house and are unable to agree upon who gets to live in the house, the court is not going to physically split the house in half and give a 50% portion of it to each party; rather, the court may likely order that the house be sold and the proceeds from the sale be distributed equally.

It is possible, however, for non-marital property to become marital property, thus subjecting it to equitable distribution during the divorce process. For example, if you have an individual bank account that was opened prior to the marriage, but you deposited money into that account that was earned during the marriage, the account becomes marital property. In addition, if you purchase a house solely in your name prior to the marriage, but you later re-finance or re-title it to include your spouse’s name, the house becomes marital property. Even if you have an asset that is completely yours, but you invest marital funds for the purpose of increasing the value of that property, the appreciated value of that asset becomes marital property.

In short, it is not always easy to determine “who gets what” when a marriage ends. An experienced attorney can guide you through the divorce process and discuss any property issues or concerns with you. If you are in need of assistance, please call the Law Offices of Kate Mesic, to schedule a consultation.