One thing that our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators at Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc. routinely encounter is that individuals going through a Florida Family Law Dissolution of Marriage don’t always think about the consequences of exactly how they want their marital assets and liabilities divided between them.
In order to understand this, we must start with the general rule in Florida that all assets that were acquired and all debts that were incurred during the marriage are presumed to be “marital” and that there is a basic presumption that marital debts and assets will be divided equally between the husband and wife.
Then we must look to Florida Statute § 61.075 which makes it evident that Florida is an equitable distribution jurisdiction as opposed to a community property state. As an equitable distribution jurisdiction, the court is guided by principles of equity which means that both the husband and wife should be treated in a fair manner when dividing assets and liabilities. Although the division of assets and debts should be equitable and that the parties should leave the marriage with a similar amount of the marital estate.
Determining what is marital in most divorce cases can be simple because it is the wedding date that is the starting point in determining marital assets and debts. But, the more difficult thing to determine can be the real market value valuation of each marital asset.
The parties to a Florida divorce are required to fill out and file a Family Law Financial Affidavit Form 12.902 which in part contains an Assets and Liabilities section where each party not only lists, but values, all marital assets and liabilities. In terms of assets, anything that is titled or deeded can be easily valued, but it is the items of personal property – material things that can cause difficulties at mediation because sometimes these items have emotional value as well.
Our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators have seen situations where a party emotionally has to have a specific item or set of items and is willing to give away the bank – so to speak – in order to walk away from mediation with the material item he or she covets most. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While it may be difficult for some individuals to set aside their emotions during a divorce case, those that do come out ahead.
At Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc., we use an equitable distribution spreadsheet to list the assets and liabilities which are allocated to each party. Once all assets and liabilities are set out on this spreadsheet, the columns are totaled so that each spouse can see whether there has been an equal division of assets. If the assets have not been equally divided, then one party is required to make an equalizing payment to the other.
It is important to remember that each particular equitable distribution spreadsheet is only as accurate as the values that the parties place on their assets and liabilities. If one party wants an asset that he or she has placed an abnormally high value on, then there may not be a real equalization of assets so – Be Careful What You Ask For!