Equitable Distribution and the Correct Date for Analyzing a Marital Estate in Florida

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.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed this ruling and sent the case back to the trial court. The husband’s successful appeal is very instructive when it comes to which assets are subject to equitable distribution and which ones are not. Specifically, the court reiterated a pre-existing rule that weighed heavily in this case. Equitable distribution requires the court to establish a “snapshot” of the totality of the assets owned by a married couple for the purposes of distributing them equitably. Many spouses buy and sell assets with some frequency, so a key question becomes…what is the date for taking that “snapshot” for equitable distribution?

Previous court rulings have made it clear that it can be one of two dates. If there is a valid separation agreement, that agreement’s date is the controlling one. If the couple did not create a valid marital separation agreement, the date that must be used is the date of the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage.

In this situation, Orlando and Diana had no separation agreement. That meant that the key date was the date that Orlando filed for divorce. On that date, the four properties that the couple had deeded to the sons were no longer legally theirs and therefore could not be a part of their marital estate for the purposes of equitable distribution.

Whether you are dealing with a dispute over equitable distribution or some other element of a divorce, you should make sure you have skilled divorce litigators on your side. The experienced South Florida equitable distribution attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have helped spouses in resolving equitable distribution and other divorce issues for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Equalizing Payments, Marital Home Quit Claim Deeds, Equitable Distribution, and Your Florida Divorce Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2017

Transferring Homes into Trusts and the Impact on Your Florida Divorce and Equitable Distribution, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 20, 2016