Alimony and Child Custody in Florida
While no one gets married with the intention of divorcing, oftentimes legal separation and divorce is a reality for many couples with minor children. Once children are involved, soon to be ex-spouses must put their differences aside and think about the best interest of the child.
In fact, the state of Florida mandates that family separation facilitate the best interest of the child, and trial judges in family court have discretion to split marital property, provide for alimony and child support, and structure child custody agreements equitably.
Dividing Marital Property
First, circuit courts look to divide marital property equitably, giving preference to the marital home for a spouse with whom minor children will live. But what is marital property? Marital property are assets and liabilities that were acquired by either spouse during the period they were married.
For example, if Michael and Mary married on January 16, 2017 and divorced on April 16, 2018, any property acquired by either spouse between that period is considered marital property, while any property either spouse had prior to January 16, 2017 would not be considered marital property.
What about gifts received by either spouse?
While gifts, bequests, devises, or inheritances received by one spouse during marriage are not considered marital property, these assets have the ability to transform into marital property.
Some ways that non marital property can transform into marital property is if the recipient spouse deposits the assets into a joint account with their spouse, which may make it an inter spousal gift, or if the other spouse expends their resources or marital resources to make the asset their spouse received grow or appreciate in value.
In this case, the income generated on the asset from the resources of the other spouse will become marital property, while the underlying asset still remains non marital property. Spouses can also form pre-nuptial agreements or post-nuptial agreements that except certain assets from being marital property.
How do courts divide marital property?
It is important to remember that courts will divide marital property equitably, not equally. Thus, no spouse is entitled to exactly 50% of a particular marital asset, unless a specific valuation of the property has determined that.
Factors that courts consider with respect to equitable distribution of marital property include: the length of the marriage; contributions by each spouse to the marriage; any sacrifices either spouse may have made such as giving up a career or educational goals for the sake of the marriage; desirability of maintaining a business free from the interference of the other spouse; and any misconduct during the marriage that may have affected marital assets.
Now, that division of marital property has been addressed, spouses going through divorce may want to think about their support needs. There are five types of alimony that either spouse may request: temporary alimony, also known as pendent lite alimony; bridge-the-gap alimony; rehabilitative alimony; durational alimony; and permanent alimony.
To award alimony, the court must make factual findings that the spouse requesting alimony needs it, and that the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony without financial detriment to themselves. The court also considers the duration of the marriage when awarding alimony.