When you are married and buy a house, legally speaking, you own it together. If you divorce, you will have to divide the house as part of your marital property. But what if one of you owned the property before the marriage and the other spouse paid for repairs on the house? Will one of you walk away with the property while the other one walks away with nothing?
This type of situation may have been going on for a long time (and with a lot of money spent). In Florida, in the event that the couple decides to divorce, how will the assets be divided in such a situation?
Florida has equitable distribution, which means the assets must be divided according to state guidelines on fairness. The process begins with dividing separate property from marital property. Separate property may have been acquired before the marriage, may be an inheritance, or may be property that was included in a prenuptial agreement. This is not subject to property division in divorce. Marital property is generally anything that was acquired during the marriage, and must be divided. And then there’s something of a third category: commingled property.
The non-owner may have poured a lot of money into the property
Commingled property consists of assets that were separate property at one time, but have become intertwined with marital property. For instance, if one spouse had a savings account before the marriage, and the other spouse contributed to it during the marriage, the assets in the account would be considered at least partly commingled.
Real estate can similarly become commingled property. For instance, imagine one spouse owned a home before the marriage. During the marriage, both spouses lived in the home and contributed to the mortgage, repairs and other upkeep. As any homeowner knows, this can involve a lot of money over the years. By the time they divorce some years later, the value of the home has grown significantly. In this type of situation, the increased value of the home may be considered part of the marital property, and subject to division.
This same concept also applies to other assets (bank accounts, stocks, etc.) if both spouses contributed significantly to making them grow no matter who originally opened those accounts.
Valuable advice of a divorce attorney
Property division can become very complicated, which is why advice from a knowledgeable Florida attorney may make a great deal of difference to your case. The attorney can advise you on how to ensure that you walk away from the marriage with a fair amount of assets. It is essential to protect your rights and to get what you are entitled to so that you can look to the future with hope and excitement.