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Protecting your assets during property division

If your marriage is over, you may be doing a lot of thinking about what your post-divorce life will look like, especially if you have considerable assets on the table. You may have concerns about your spouse obtaining more than a fair share of your marital assets, particularly if you have worked hard before and during your marriage to achieve the level of financial success you enjoy.

Before the divorce process begins, you can take certain steps to protect your assets. Taking these precautions may not only allow you a better chance of getting a fair divorce order, but it may also allow the process to move more quickly, potentially saving you the cost of a prolonged divorce.

What is on the line?

Your first step is to make a detailed assessment of your marital situation. If you have allowed your spouse to handle the family budget, the time has come for you to get involved in that chore. Learn as much as you can about your debts and bills as well as your accounts and investments. You may need a financial expert to help ensure you have located all your assets, and your attorney may recommend such a professional.

Meanwhile, it is time to inventory and assess your marital assets, including:

  • Your home, vacation property and commercial properties
  • Your bank accounts
  • Any brokerage accounts, stocks, bonds or mutual funds
  • Your retirement plan and pension
  • Furniture, art, electronics and household items
  • Your cars, boat, recreational vehicles
  • Your business or practice

Understanding which of these is marital property and which you can protect from property division is essential. Generally, anything you obtained during your marriage, whether assets or debts, is likely to be joint property and subject to division. Assets you owned prior to getting married are separate, such as an inheritance or a business, as long as you did not comingle them with your marital assets or use them to the benefit of your family.

Florida's equitable distribution

Equitable distribution does not necessarily mean equal. The court will take many factors into consideration, such as how long you have been married and the physical health of each of you, when determining how to divide the assets.

The court may determine that your spouse receives a larger portion of the marital estate if he or she does not earn as much as you or has fewer individual assets. It would behoove you to be alert for any indication that your spouse has hidden any assets, joint or individual, to manipulate this assessment. Your attorney can assist you with this and with every aspect of your divorce.

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