Understanding property division in a divorce

Whether through a family inheritance, a startup business entity that has grown substantially through the years or a profitable rental property empire – some couples who end up filing for divorce have significant assets to divide.

In the state of Florida, marital property is part of the marital estate and subject to equitable distribution. Alternately, absent any written agreement, non-marital or separate property stays with the original owner and does not get divided.

However, property division in a divorce gets tricky when nonmarital assets are comingled with marital property.

Nonmarital versus marital assets

In a nutshell, non-marital assets are property or money one spouse owned prior to the marriage. It can also be classified as third-party gifts or inheritances a spouse acquired after the marriage.

Alternately, marital property is that which either spouse has acquired during the marriage regardless if the property is only in one spouse’s name. Money, real estate, retirement investments are a few examples.

However, there are distinct ways nonmarital property can in fact become marital property and thus potentially subject to the equitable property division laws of the state of Florida.

A common scenario involves commingling monetary gifts or family inheritances with marital accounts or property.

Mixing money

In one common scenario, one party inherits a substantial amount of money from a parent, great aunt or family member either before or after the marriage. This is typically considered separate nonmarital property that falls outside the marital estate.

However, if the property is mixed or commingled, it could be treated as marital property in the eyes of the law. A beneficiary spouse who deposits the money into a joint bank account or uses the inherited funds to buy the family residence or purchase equipment for a family business are a few common examples.

Specific questions?

When a couple divorces and is at odds with this particular issue, seeking the help of an experienced family law attorney with knowledge in high-asset divorce matters is the first step to take. These matters are often complex and, depending on the circumstances, could require the tracing of records and/or assistance of a financial professional.

FindLaw Network