Articles Posted in Equitable Distribution

Typically, under most circumstances, assets and debts acquired during the time that a couple is married are considered by the law to be marital assets. That applies to student loan debt just the same as any other debt, generally speaking. There are, however, special circumstances that may make one spouse’s student loan debt acquired during the marriage non-marital debt or debt that is otherwise required to be distributed unequally.

In order to win that, the spouse seeking the unequal distribution (or classification of the debt as non-marital) must show the court that special circumstances exist. So, whether you’re arguing for a 50-50 division of the student loan debt or for some other type of distribution, you need to have on your side a skilled South Florida divorce attorney with an in-depth knowledge of Florida law and what that law requires in this kind of dispute.

A.T. was a Gainesville-area man with student loan debt who was going through a divorce case with his wife, N.T. During the time that the couple was married, A.T. incurred more than $10,000 in student loan debt. When the time came for the trial court to rule on the equitable distribution of the couple’s assets and debts, the court declared that the student loan debt was the husband’s non-marital debt and that he was 100% responsible for paying that debt.

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When you hear the phrase “marital gift,” it may call to mind poring over an engaged couple’s wedding registry to select just the right item (or items,) or perhaps bring back memories of sending out dozens (or even hundreds) or thank-you notes for the things you received at your own wedding.

What you may not know is that, in Florida law, “marital gift” has another meaning, and this other meaning may have a major effect on the division of your assets in the event of a divorce. Under this “marital gift” legal concept, it is possible for a non-marital asset to become part of your marital estate subject to equitable distribution in your divorce. What this should remind you is that divorce law is full of many subtleties, nuances and concepts probably unknown by even knowledgeable non-lawyers. That’s why, if you’re going through a divorce here in the Sunshine State, you need the experience of a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side.

A recent case of a Brevard County couple is an example of divorce where a “marital gift” mattered a great deal. In the case, the couple had a marital home that was purchased with a mortgage and an $80,000 down payment. The $80,000 for the down payment came from a gratuity given to the husband by a former employer, as a “thank you” for services he had performed prior to the husband’s marrying the wife.

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Sometimes, success in your case is about the facts, sometimes it’s about the law, sometimes it’s about the rules of court procedure and sometimes it’s a combination of the above. That is one reason among many why it pays to have skillful South Florida family law counsel on your side fighting for you. You know the facts of your case, but you probably don’t know all the details and specifics of Florida law or of Florida’s procedure rules. Your skilled attorney can help you make sure that the case you put on is the strongest one possible.

Your attorney can also help you spot problems that occur in your case. Sometimes, the judge in your case may do something the law doesn’t allow. Even if it was harmful to you, it very possibly was something that you did not know was impermissible. Again, having a knowledgeable advocate helps.

As an example, there’s H.F. and C.R.’s case. They were a couple whose divorce was finalized in late 2007. There was also a supplemental judgment issued in 2010. The judgments stated that certain personal property (that was being shipped from Kuwait) worth $100,000 was to go to the husband. The husband was ordered to pay the wife $111,000 over the course of four years, at $2,320 per month.

A divorce case may often revolve around matters like child custody and child support, alimony and property issues like who gets the house and the cars. Other times, they’re much more complex, especially if one or both spouses held ownership interests in one or more companies. When that happens, it is particularly important have knowledgeable Florida family law counsel on your side to make sure that your issues are handled skillfully.

C.B. and K.B. were a couple whose case presented that type of situation. They separated in 2014 after almost nine years of marriage. The pair had two sons together. They also owned and operated several businesses together.

When a couple like this divorces, there are a wide variety of issues they may need to resolve. In that type of situation, the more issues you can resolve through agreement, the more time and expense you may be able to save. Even then, it is important to be sure you get the right marital settlement agreement. In this couple’s case, they were able to resolve all issues related to their children, but division of assets was not something upon which they could agree completely. They agreed upon most asset-related things, but could not decide how to divide a real estate holding company that they co-owned.

Three decades ago, there was a popular TV comedy featuring four senior women sharing a home here in sunny South Florida. The eldest occasionally tried to impart her “wisdom” by telling stories from her youth, urging her listeners to “picture it,” and then describing the setting. So, in that tradition… picture it: you’re in a courtroom in your divorce case –- on your own — facing the judge and your spouse and your spouse’s lawyer. Both you and the other side have made motions asking the judge to do certain things. While you’re in the hearing, the judge suggests to your spouse’s attorney what motions that lawyer should file. The judge also makes a suggestion that that attorney not file another motion that the lawyer was contemplating.

That would be pretty intimidating, would it not? You’re there on your own and your spouse has counsel but it is your spouse’s side that the judge seems to be helping out. Would you think that you have any recourse? The reality is that you do have options in a circumstance like that. One option to which you should definitely avail yourself is retaining legal counsel. Having a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side can help level the playing field.

This scenario allegedly happened in a real-life case recently. A wife and a husband were in court in their divorce case disputing the wife’s alleged improper sale of certain assets contained in storage units. The husband had a lawyer; the wife didn’t. The judge in the case allegedly suggested that the husband’s lawyer file a motion to show cause and that, as part of that request, the judge “would be happy” to haul into court the third party to whom the wife allegedly sold the assets. The judge later allegedly offered an opinion that the husband’s lawyer should avoid filing a different motion the lawyer was considering.

Generally, the law gives judges significant discretion when it comes to the orders they hand down in family law cases, especially when it comes to division of assets and debts. The court can demand that a particular spouse pay a particular debt and can impose requirements regarding how to pay it, such as demanding that the marital home be sold–at least in most circumstances. However, Florida constitutional law creates some very strong protections for homestead property, and sometimes the homestead exemption protection can have an impact on a family law case. To make sure you’re not forced into selling your home when you don’t have to, be sure to retain an experienced Florida family law attorney.

As an example of a conflict between debt assignment in a divorce and the homestead exemption, there’s the recent case of S.A.S. and J.S. The pair were going through divorce in Broward County, and their divorce included issues that required the retention of a guardian ad litem. Guardians ad litem often become involved in divorce cases involving minor children if the case is especially litigious or there has been an allegation of child abuse or neglect.

In a family law case, a guardian ad litem is often a local attorney and is entitled to payment of fees for the service she provides. Many times, the guardian ad litem may be paid by the hour. The guardian ad litem’s fees are owed by the litigants, which means that this is one more marital expense that the court must decide who pays.

Going through the divorce process can be, and often is, a difficult time, both emotionally and, in many situations, financially. Divorcing spouses may be forced to deplete financial accounts or sell assets to pay for necessary things like living expenses and legal fees. When you do, the expenditure of those assets may impact the outcome of your case with regard to equitable distribution. In any equitable distribution outcome, your goals certainly include not being penalized for depleting assets for legitimate reasons. To make sure you get a genuinely fair equitable distribution, make certain you have the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

For an illustration of the rules regarding the dissipation of marital assets, there’s the very recent case of T.M. and H.M. from Palm Beach County. Each spouse petitioned for divorce in 2016 after nearly 25 years of marriage. The couple’s divorce case covered several important issues, including equitable distribution and child support. After the trial was over, the wife appealed. In her appeal, she objected to several decisions the trial court made regarding equitable distribution as well as the calculation of her income for child support calculation purposes.

The outcome of the appellate argument regarding the equitable distribution of the couple’s marital assets was particularly useful. In T.M. and H.M.’s case, the trial judge awarded the wife her checking account and her savings account. The documents in the divorce case identified the value of the savings account as $13,275 and the value of the checking account as $13,212.

When you go through a divorce, there are several steps that you must complete. The equitable distribution of marital assets is one of them. Of course, most people’s marital estates are not an unchangeable thing but instead experience change every time the couple buys or sells something or every time an asset fluctuates in value. So how do you determine when to analyze the marital estate in order to complete an equitable distribution? For answers to these types of questions, as well as what they mean for you and your divorce, you should act promptly to consult a knowledgeable Florida equitable distribution attorney.

A recent case from central Florida shone a light on this issue. The spouses, Orlando and Diana, divorced after 23 years of marriage. During the marriage, the couple owned multiple pieces of real estate. Orlando and Diana, as Colombians, observed the Colombian tradition of parents providing for their children and, motivated by that, deeded four of the properties they owned to their sons. After these transfers, they still had left an apartment in Colombia, a condo in Naples, and a house in Marco Island.

After the trial’s conclusion, the judge issued a decision on equitable distribution, giving the husband the house in Marco Island plus two of the properties that the couple had previously deeded to the sons. The wife received the apartment in Colombia, the condo in Naples, and a vacant lot that the couple had deeded to their sons. The court ordered the fourth property that had been deeded to the children sold.

When a couple divorces, there are several things they must work through in order to reach a settlement agreement, including the division of their property. Sometimes, parties may make certain payments contingent on other financial events, like the sale of the marital home. Thus, what happens if the house is put up for sale, but no one buys it? Issues like this highlight just how important it is to negotiate thoroughly and draft carefully any marital settlement agreement that you sign. When it comes to marital settlement agreements, it pays to have an experienced Florida property division attorney on your side.

A recent case involving this type of settlement agreement dispute involved the divorce of Jonathan and Angela. The couple worked out a marital settlement agreement in their divorce case that stated that they agreed to sell their marital home. They later amended the agreement to dictate that the home had a fair market value of $725,000 and an outstanding mortgage of $328,000. They agreed that each spouse was entitled to 50% of the equity in the home, meaning that each spouse was entitled to $198,500.

To accomplish this distribution, the agreement required the wife to sign over her one-half interest in the home to the husband. The husband agreed to pay the wife $80,000 within 10 days and the remaining $118,500 when the sale of the home closed.

In many divorce cases, one of the key areas to resolve is equitable distribution. In some marriages, the couple may have a mixture of marital assets, non-marital assets, and maybe non-marital assets that were improved or acquired in part by using marital funds. Reaching a conclusion on equitable distribution can be very complex and is yet another example of where the experience of knowledgeable Florida divorce attorneys can help. One Tampa-area case involved just such a complication when the couple had used marital funds to pay the mortgage on a non-marital asset.

In this case, the wife, Bridgett, owned one-half of a duplex. That asset was the wife’s non-marital property. During the marriage, the couple paid $350 of marital funds toward the duplex’s mortgage from November 2004 until the wife’s half of the duplex was destroyed by fire in November 2006.

Sometime later, Bridgett and her husband, Ricky, divorced. During the divorce hearing, the husband sought credit for the duplex mortgage payments in calculating the couple’s equitable distribution. The trial judge agreed with the husband and gave him dollar-for-dollar credit for the full amount of the 24 mortgage payments made on the duplex during the marriage.

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