If marriage is the process of legally combining someone’s life with the life of their spouse, then divorce is about separating spouses’ daily lived experiences and finances from one another. It can be very difficult for those who have spent years sharing a home and resources to settle on what seems like a fair solution for their family, especially if they don’t have any pre-existing agreements in place.
The rules in Florida require a fair or equitable division of marital property, but it is common for those preparing for divorce to disagree about what would be an appropriate solution. Who makes the final determination about equitable property distribution in a Florida divorce?
Spouses have the option of settling
Although litigation is sometimes necessary to resolve disputes about property division, there is no rule that says that divorcing spouses must allow a judge to divide their resources. They always have the option of reaching an agreement that both believe is acceptable and moving forward with an uncontested divorce filing. In such arrangements, the spouses would present the courts with their settlement agreement that addresses their marital property and debts for review and approval by a judge. In most cases, the spouses retain total control over how they divide property and financial obligations when they file an uncontested divorce.
However, many spouses find it prohibitively difficult to reach an agreement about what should happen to their property. In a scenario where they cannot resolve their disagreements through negotiations, then the judge presiding over their case would ultimately decide what happens to their property. Judges have the authority to award assets to either spouse or to compel the couple to sell some of their property and share the proceeds.
Presenting a thorough and accurate inventory of marital property and assessment of the spouses’ individual circumstances will therefore be crucial to securing a reasonable outcome when a judge must apply the state’s equitable distribution law in a contested divorce filing. Becoming more familiar with the rules that govern divorce proceedings in Florida may help those trying to estimate their future circumstances, negotiate with a spouse or prepare for litigation.