Court Explains What is Subject to Equitable Distribution in Florida Divorces

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that in divorce actions, the courts have the authority to divide marital assets in a manner that they deem fair and just. Not all property acquired during a marriage is subject to equitable distribution, though, as shown in a recent Florida ruling. If you have questions about how ending your marriage may impact you financially, it is prudent to talk to a skilled Miami divorce lawyer as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the husband and wife divorced. In the final dissolution of judgment, the trial court ordered the husband to pay the wife $255 per month, which the court stated represented a portion of his “military retirement.” Five years after the divorce was final, the wife filed a motion for enforcement and contempt, arguing that the husband retired two years earlier but had not paid her any portion of his military retirement. The court granted the wife’s motion, and the husband appealed.

Assets Subject to Equitable Distribution

On appeal, the husband argued that he medically retired and that, therefore, the money he received represented military disability payments rather than retirement payments. He further noted that he did not meet the length of service requirement to receive retirement payments from the military. As such, he argued that the trial court erred in ordering him to make payments to the wife.

The court explained that military pensions are assets that are subject to equitable distribution under Florida law. While service members that are rendered disabled due to their service may retire before they reach twenty years of service in certain situations, disability payments from the military do not fall under the definition of disposable retired pay that is subject to equitable distribution.

The court ultimately agreed with the husband’s reasoning and reversed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it noted that the United States Supreme Court previously ruled that a former husband could not be compelled to indemnify his former wife after he waived a share of his military retirement benefits to receive non-taxable disability benefits, as federal law preempted states from treating waived military retirement in the form or disability benefits as community property that was divisible via equitable distribution. The Court also held that any attempts to indemnify or reimburse a former spouse the amount previously awarded as community property was also preempted by federal law. Based on the preceding, the trial court ruling was reversed.

Meet with an Experienced Miami Attorney

People considering ending their marriage often have concerns about the legal, financial, and emotional ramifications of divorce. If you want to learn more about equitable distribution, you should talk to a lawyer. The experienced Miami attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can inform you of your rights and options, and if we represent you, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. Our office is in Aventura, and we regularly represent people in divorce matters in Miami. You can contact us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.