An Experienced Divorce Attorney Helping Secure Equitable Distribution
One of the most important and complicated aspects of divorce litigation involves the division and distribution of marital assets by the Court. In the State of Florida, this is called equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is often of central importance to both parties, and can involve distribution of wealth that has taken a lifetime to achieve. Florida being an “Equitable Distribution” state means that courts will divide marital assets and debts in a way that is fair (or equitable) but not necessarily equal. That said, the starting point for any Florida Court will be an equal equitable distribution. Courts have great discretion valuing and distributing marital assets. As such, experience with presenting the right type of evidence, and attention detail, are of vital importance. The Court must be presented the evidence that is necessary to fashion equitable distribution in a manner that you find favorable. That said, the parties can resolve the equitable distribution of their property through negotiation, mediation, and/or litigation. Having an attorney with experience and knowledge is paramount in property negotiating these issues. At times, a combination of solutions, and thinking outside of the box, is necessary. For example, parties use neutral appraisers and/or may agree to abide by valuations offered by independent appraisers, but ask the court to rule on the actual distribution and/or marital or non-marital character of the assets.
At Jeffrey Law, PA, located in Miami, we have the experience and knowledge you need to ensure your assets are equitably divided during the divorce process.
Steps Involved In The Process
When engaging in an equitable distribution, the Court will consider the evidence presented and follow the following steps. If the proper evidence is not presented, the Court cannot be faulted for an improper equitable distribution.
- Identifying Assets. When engaging in equitable distribution, the first step that a Court will take is the identification of all marital and non-marital assets. This means that in order to prepare to litigate equitable distribution properly, an attorney must start early and be well-prepared. First, the parties will engage in a process of financial discovery and disclosure—this includes requires for information, documents, and even the taking of depositions. At trial, each spouse will then present the evidence that they have gathered, and argue that certain items are their separate property, and other items below to the marriage, or the “marital estate.” Whether property, or a portion of the property, is marital or non-marital is a complex analysis, guided by statutes and case law. Attorneys must keep constantly abreast of developments in the law. Ultimately, the Court will set aside to each party their assets that are proven to be their non-marital property and adjudge all other assets to be marital and subject to division in the divorce case. Occasionally, a party can make a case for an early, or interim, division of certain property while a case is still pending. Importantly, the existence of a valid contract, such as a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, is also relevant at this point of the proceedings. Such contracts can essentially change the statutory definition of what constitutes “marital” or “non-marital” property.
Sometimes, the journey is half of the battle, and parties are not forthright, or are outright fraudulent, in concealing assets from the marital estate. It is important that a family law attorney engage in detailed discovery sufficient to identify all marital assets, including litigation if a party is not forthcoming in complying with their discovery obligations. The attorneys at Jeffrey Law are willing to pursue relevant discovery as aggressively as necessary, and have engaged in days of hearings in some cases to avoid fraud or concealment, and to develop the case properly for trial.
- Valuing Assets. Once the marital estate is properly identified, a party and their attorney are responsible for provision the Court with sufficient evidence of value of each asset. Property that must be valued can include real property, art, jewelry, retirement plans and accounts, cryptocurrency, businesses and stock, or any other property that has a fair market value. In some cases, valuing assets is easier than others. In difficult cases, it is sometimes necessary to hire experts, or teams of experts, to present the proper evidence to the Court. Business valuations can be especially nuanced and difficult, and experience can be critical when it comes to cross-examining opposing experts. It is important to retain a family law attorney who understands the nuances and demands of obtaining proper asset valuations, and litigating against improper ones, to achieve a desired result.
- Distribution of Assets. Once marital and non-marital assets are identified and distributed, the Court will need to distribute assets to each respective party. Generally speaking, each party will be found entitled to half of the assets that are determined marital, absent specific circumstances such as dissipation or waste by one party. Matters warranting unequal distribution can be especially complicated and require detailed legal analysis.
Schedule A Consultation To Discuss Your Option
For a consultation on the specifics of equitable distribution, and how we litigate same to achieve the best possible results for our clients, schedule a consultation today. Call 305-874-7058 or email us online.