A marriage is legal relationship that involves not only love and respect, but also the ownership of several assets. What happens to property owned by an individual before his or her marriage in Florida? Keep reading to find out.
Marital Property vs. Non-Marital Property – The Fundamentals
Under Florida law, there is a division between marital property and non-marital property. Marital property encompasses all assets acquired during the period a couple was married.
Regardless of whose name is in the title of an asset or whether the property was acquired by one or both spouses, marital property is subject to equitable division in case of divorce. Non-marital property encompasses all property held by each spouse individually, including assets acquired before the marriage.
Florida is not a community property state. In the event of divorce, state courts apply the principles of equitable distribution. Hence, the court distributes the marital assets between the former spouses fairly, which does not necessarily mean a similar division.
Florida Equitable Division of Property – As Provided by Law
The first step to dividing Florida property after a divorce is asking the court to determine which assets are marital property. Identifying a marital asset is not simply looking at when a particular property was acquired.
Florida Statutes §61.075(1) specifies that “in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage (…), or in a proceeding for disposition of assets following a dissolution of marriage by a court which lacked jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the assets, the court shall set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities.”
The same statute adds that “the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.”
When determining whether a property is a marital asset, Florida courts must evaluate an extensive list of factors outlined in Florida Statutes §61.075, such as:
- “The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker
- The economic circumstances of the parties
- The duration of the marriage
- Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party
- The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse
- The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party”
What Happens to Property Owned Before Marriage in Florida? – The Verdict
With few exceptions, assets acquired by either of the spouses before they married are not subject to equitable division, as they are considered non-marital property. For example, let’s say a Florida resident named John decided to purchase a classic Chevy for himself as a gift.
If John marries someone else in the future, the vehicle will be treated as separate property. As John has exclusive ownership over the vehicle, he can customize, sell, trade, or gift the asset without his wife’s consent.
Income derived from non-marital assets is also considered non-marital property. Any assets excluded from division through a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement are considered non-marital property in Florida.