Property Distribution

It is not uncommon for one of the most contentious issues in a divorce case to be the allocation of assets and liabilities. While some states use "community property" rules in which spouses are deemed to equally own all income and assets earned or acquired during their marriages, Florida is among the majority of states that use "equitable distribution."

Equitable distribution refers to the fair division of property, but not necessarily equal. While the court is directed to start with the premise that a distribution of marital property will be equal, Florida law does allow for situations in which one spouse may be awarded a greater percentage of one or all assets than the other.

Attorney for Property Distribution in Pensacola, FL

If you are involved in any kind of dispute with your spouse over the marital or nonmarital property as it relates to a pending divorce, it is in your best interest to quickly retain legal counsel. 

The Law Office of James M. Burns represents clients in communities all over Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, including Milton, Pace, Perdido Key, Fort Walton Beach, Navarre, and several others. 

James M. Burns is a skilled divorce lawyer in Pensacola who can negotiate on your behalf to help you achieve the most favorable resolution to your case. 

Call (850) 457-6002 today to have our attorney review your case and answer all of your legal questions during a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Overview of Property Distribution in Florida

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Marital vs. Nonmarital Assets and Liabilities in Escambia County

Florida Statute § 61.075(6)(a) defines marital assets and liabilities as including the following:

  • Assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them;


  • The enhancement in value and appreciation of nonmarital assets resulting either from the efforts of either party during the marriage or from the contribution to or expenditure thereon of marital funds or other forms of marital assets, or both;


  • Interspousal gifts during the marriage; and


  • All vested and nonvested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs.

Under Florida Statute § 61.075(6)(b), nonmarital assets and liabilities include the following: 

  • Assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party prior to the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities;


  • Assets acquired separately by either party by noninterspousal gift, bequest, devise, or descent, and assets acquired in exchange for such assets;


  • All income derived from nonmarital assets during the marriage unless the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset;


  • Assets and liabilities excluded from marital assets and liabilities by valid written agreement of the parties, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities; and


  • Any liability incurred by forgery or unauthorized signature of one spouse signing the name of the other spouse.

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Equitable Distribution in Pensacola

Florida Statute § 61.075(1) establishes that the court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities. Furthermore, in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, 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, including:


  • 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;


  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties;


  • The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction.
    • In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home;


  • The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition; and


  • Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

Under Florida Statute § 61.075(3), any distribution of marital assets or marital liabilities must be supported by factual findings in the judgment or order based on competent substantial evidence with reference to factors enumerated in Florida Statute § 61.075(1) in any contested dissolution action wherein a stipulation and agreement has not been entered and filed. 

The distribution of all marital assets and marital liabilities, whether equal or unequal, must include specific written findings of fact as to the following:


  • Clear identification of nonmarital assets and ownership interests;


  • Identification of marital assets, including the individual valuation of significant assets, and designation of which spouse shall be entitled to each asset;


  • Identification of the marital liabilities and designation of which spouse shall be responsible for each liability; and


  • Any other findings necessary to advise the parties or the reviewing court of the trial court’s rationale for the distribution of marital assets and allocation of liabilities. 

Unlike child custody, alimony decisions that may be modified later, court decisions regarding the division of marital assets and liabilities are final.

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Florida Property Distribution Resources

Florida Bar Journal | A Seven-Step Analysis of Equitable Distribution in Florida — View the full text of Part 1 of a May 1999 Florida Bar Journal article discussing equitable distribution in the Sunshine State. The article covers establishing the duration of a “partnership,” classification of assets, and valuing marital property. Part 2 covers structuring the distribution, structuring the distribution award, and considering alimony in relation to distribution.

Florida Statute § 61.075 | Equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities — View the full text of the state laws governing equitable distribution. You can learn more about what happens when the court awards a cash payment for the purpose of equitable distribution of marital assets, to be paid in full or in installments. You can also find information about the cut-off date for determining assets and liabilities to be identified or classified as marital assets and liabilities is the earliest of the date the parties enter into a valid separation agreement.

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Find a Property Distribution Lawyer in Pensacola, FL

Are you hoping to file for divorce in the Florida Panhandle, but have disagreements with your spouse over marital or nonmarital property? You will want to contact The Law Office of James M. Burns for assistance with your dispute. If you are in the military and you have questions about whether your military pension is subject to equitable distribution, contact James M. Burns. 

Pensacola divorce attorney James M. Burns helps individuals in Pace, Milton, Navarre, Fort Walton Beach, Perdido Key, and many surrounding areas of Santa Rosa County and Escambia County. 

You can have our lawyer provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case when you call (850) 457-6002 or complete an online contact form to receive a free initial consultation.

This article was last updated on Monday, February 12, 2018.