Divorce and Property Distribution. Does Waste play a role?
It is no secret that divorce can be a messy process. Emotions run high and hard decisions are made. In some divorces, one or both parties may even feel victimized. While it may be tempting to handle disputes out of court or to seek vengeance by taking it out on personal property, it is important to remember that the court takes all things into account when making a judgment on the divorce.
Equitable Distribution and Divorce
Even though Florida follows an equitable standard of property division, under Florida Statute 61.075, courts will generally provide an equal split of marital property between spouses. While this may be fair in most situations, the law does recognize that there are plenty of situations in which a fifty-fifty split of the property is inequitable. In such situations, the court may make an unequal distribution of marital property, as long as that decision is founded on the justifications listed within the statute. Examples of justification for unequal distribution of property include the economic circumstances of each spouse and the duration of the marriage.
While figuring out how the property is to be divided is an important aspect, it is also important to have an understanding of what property will be divided. Generally, property in a marriage falls under one of two categories. The first is marital property, which largely encompasses all property that has been obtained during the marriage individually by either spouse or jointly by them. The other category is personal nonmarital property, which largely includes all property that was either obtained before the marriage or during the marriage but as a gift, devise or bequest to only one party. While only marital property is subject to division between the parties, a party’s personal nonmarital property may affect the division of marital property.
Waste and Dissipation in Divorce
Under Florida Statute 61.075, the waste, dissipation, or destruction of marital property is one of many justifications for unequal distribution. While the concepts of waste, dissipation, or destruction might seem fairly straightforward at first, they can encompass a much broader range of actions or behaviors. Examples of waste, dissipation, or destruction include, but are not limited to:
- Damaging property;
- Allowing property to fall into disrepair;
- Gambling debts;
- Money or gifts to another person;
- Legal fees and forfeiture of property resulting from criminal activity; and
- Foreclosure resulting from failure to make mortgage payments.
Interestingly enough, the court is only concerned with waste, dissipation, or destruction of marital property that occurs after a party has filed for divorce, or within two years of the filing for divorce.
As waste, dissipation, or destruction of marital assets is justification for the court to allow an unequal distribution of marital property, it would be within the power of the court to penalize any party that is found to have taken such action by reducing their award amount in proportion to the value of the waste, dissipation, or destruction of marital assets.
Contact an Orlando Attorney
Working with a skilled attorney can help you protect your interests in a family law case and can also help you avoid costly mistakes. If you are thinking about getting divorced, or if your spouse has filed for divorce, then contact a dedicated, skilled attorney at The Law Office of Natalie D. Hall, PA, for a case evaluation.