There are massive financial implications to divorce. You’ll have to address issues pertaining to alimony and child support, but your property division dispute may be the most important matter confronting you. After all, the amount of marital assets that you obtain through your divorce can dictate your financial positioning and your stability post-divorce.
Under Florida law, you should receive your fair share of the marital assets. The law recognizes equitable distribution of these assets, though, which doesn’t mean that they have to be divided equally. Therefore, as you navigate your divorce, you’ll want to have arguments prepared that address why you’re entitled to certain portions of the marital estate.
How individual assets come into play
The property division process is oftentimes much more complex than people anticipate. This is because there is a lot of focus placed on whether certain assets are martial in nature or if they’re individually owned. This is a critical distinction given that individually owned assets are exempt from the property division process.
So how do courts untangle whether certain assets are part of the marital estate or individually owned? Let’s take a closer look.
Determining whether individual assets have been transformed into marital assets
This is perhaps the single biggest determination that the court has to make in these matters, and it can be difficult to untangle. However, there are several methods that the court uses to get a better handle on the issue:
- Transmutation approach: Here, when martial and nonmarital funds are mixed together, the court views the action as causing the individually held assets to be transformed into marital assets. This often occurs when individually owned funds are deposited into a jointly held account or individual funds are used to purchase assets that are then used by the couple as marital assets. This theory is based on the thought that once individual assets are mixed with marital assets they simply lose their individual character.
- Tracing approach: With this method, the court tries to follow money derived from individually held property to determine if it has been converted into marital assets and, if so, how that affects ownership of the underlying property. For example, even though money obtained from a rental property may seem like an individually held asset, it can morph into a marital asset if it is deposited into a jointly held bank account where marital earnings are also deposited. Then the use of those now deemed marital funds to purchase other assets can give the other spouse an interest in those newly purchased assets.
- Intent: Inheritances often cause conflict in the property division process. When determining whether an inheritance is separate or marital property, the court will typically look at how the individual who inherited the property intended for it be used. An inheritance that is kept in a separate bank account and is only used for purchases that benefit that individual, as opposed to the marriage, is much more likely to be deemed separate property than those inheritances that are commingled and used to pay for something like a mortgage on the marital home.
Know how to untangle assets in your divorce
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the property division process. As a result, regardless of how things look, you shouldn’t agree to any sort of property division arrangement until you first analyze how the law applies to your set of circumstances.
If you’re uneasy in conducting that analysis, then you might want to think about reaching out to a legal professional who is skilled in navigating these sorts of issues. Hopefully then you can rest assured that your interests will be adequately protected throughout your marriage dissolution.