Divorce can be a tumultuous process, and one of the most pressing questions often revolves around the marital home. In Florida, property distribution is governed by the principles of "equitable distribution." Let's explore how this principle applies to the marital home.
Understanding Equitable Distribution
Florida follows the equitable distribution model, which means marital assets (and liabilities) are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. Factors the court considers include:
- The contribution of each spouse to the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The economic circumstances of each spouse.
Marital vs. Non-Marital Property
The first step in determining who gets the house is to categorize it as either marital or non-marital property.
- Marital Property: Typically, a home purchased during the marriage using joint funds is considered marital property.
- Non-Marital Property: If one party owned the home before the marriage and did not "commingle" or "intertwine" it with marital assets, it could remain as non-marital property.
Options for the Marital Home
1. Sell the House and Split the Proceeds: This is the most straightforward option, especially if both parties want to move on.
2. One Spouse Buys the Other Out: If one spouse wishes to remain in the home, they might buy out the other spouse's share, often by refinancing the mortgage.
3. Continue Joint Ownership: Some divorced couples decide to keep the home for a certain period, often to avoid disrupting children's lives. They might set future conditions for sale.
4. Offset with Other Assets: One spouse might keep the house while the other receives assets of comparable value, such as retirement accounts or other property.
Considerations Impacting the Decision
- Children: Courts consider the well-being of minor children. If keeping them in the home is in their best interest, this can influence the decision.
- Financial Stability: Each spouse's ability to maintain the home, cover mortgage payments, taxes, and other upkeep costs is a crucial consideration.
- Negative Equity: If the home's value is underwater, couples might decide jointly on a strategy, like a short sale.
While the house often holds emotional significance, decisions should blend emotional considerations with practical realities. It's advisable to consult with a Florida family law attorney to understand the best course of action tailored to individual circumstances.