How Professional Degrees and Licenses Affect Divorce

Distribution of marital property during divorce in Florida is equitable — but not necessarily equal. A number of factors may cause courts to slant equitable distribution in favor of one spouse or the other. One such factor is the attainment of educational degrees or professional licensure by one spouse — and the degree to which the other spouse made that possible.

Section 61.075 of the Florida Statutes gives guidance, but broad discretion, to courts about the factors they should consider when dividing marital property and debt. One such consideration is “the contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.” This means that, while a degree or professional license is not itself marital property, the fact that a spouse was able to achieve one with the help of the other spouse should be considered when dividing up the marital estate. Some examples include the following:

  • If one spouse paid for the education of the other
  • If one spouse’s income supported the couple while the other attended school
  • If one spouse’s services as a homemaker made it possible for the other to attend school and receive a degree

This rule is based on the rationale that a spouse who contributes in any of these ways to the education of the other does so with the expectation that it is likely to enhance the standard of living for both partners in the future. When a divorce cuts that contributing spouse off from those expected benefits, the law holds he or she should be compensated, usually by receiving a greater share of other marital property or a lesser share of marital debt.

When negotiating a fair divorce settlement, it is essential to understand the many factors that could be considered in the courtroom. An experienced St. Petersburg, FL divorce lawyer can closely examine your situation to ensure your settlement is fair under the existing facts and applicable law.

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