The division of assets and debts in divorce can be determined one of two ways in Florida.
- A divorcing couple may come to an agreement independently. In that situation, divorcing spouses will sign a Marital Settlement Agreement stipulating how assets and debts will be divided; or
- A divorcing couple who cannot reach agreement must consult the court, which will issue an order stipulating the division of the marital estate.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. As such, a court will typically divide assets acquired during marriage equitably between divorcing spouses. Additionally, debts incurred during marriage usually will be split equitably between divorcing spouses. An equitable division of assets and debts between divorcing spouses involves a fairness calculation. Marital assets and debts will not necessarily be distributed evenly. Florida law stipulates that a number of factors will be considered in determining how the marital estate will be divided. Debts incurred prior to marriage usually will not be considered in the division.
Courts will typically order equitable distribution of debts in divorce, regardless of who incurred the debts. However, if there is a basis for unequal distribution, a court may attribute larger debts to one spouse. Spouses who share a mortgage may not be ordered to split the mortgage debt evenly depending on many factors including which spouse retains possession of the home.
In the event one spouse has unnecessarily spent large sums of money, that spouse may be held responsible for a larger portion of marital debt. Although a court may order one spouse to pay a debt in a divorce, the other spouse may not be off the hook. Creditors may still seek payment for any share of the debt for which that spouse has legal liability. Therefore, even married individuals carrying separate credit cards could be held responsible for their spouse’s spending.
If you have questions about how debts may be divided in a divorce, contact a knowledgeable attorney for guidance.