In the United States, each state controls how property is divided between couples during divorce. Currently, the division of property is guided by one of two principles: community property or equitable distribution. Only nine states use the community property theory, which asserts that all property acquired during marriage is divided equally in a divorce: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington State and Wisconsin. All other states — including Florida — use equitable distribution, which considers several factors that may call for an uneven, but equitable, division of the assets gained or liabilities incurred while married.
The Basics of Equitable Distribution
This principle accounts for the individual financial situations of each party in the divorce. In addition, several other factors may influence the decision of how to distribute property that was acquired during the marriage. Equitable distribution is considered fair and flexible, but the outcome of the division can be difficult to predict. The number of factors involved and the weight of each factor may differ in each case and with each judge.
Factors Considered in Equitable Distribution
In reality, any factors that the Court feels relevant to the case may be used to decide the distribution of assets and liabilities in equitable distribution states. However, some factors have become standard considerations, including:
- The length of the marriage
- Existing prenuptial agreements
- Economic circumstances of the parties
- Contributions made to the marriage, including to the career of the other spouse, the acquisition of an asset or incurring of debts
- The value of the property to be divided
- Desirability of retaining an asset
- The intentional waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after the date of filing or within the two years prior