During the course of a marriage, the couple acquires a number of different assets and liabilities. The equitable distribution process is implemented by the court in order to distribute and divide the marital property. However, the first step in the equitable distribution process is to classify all property in possession of the parties as marital or nonmarital. A spouse’s career can be one of the more difficult items to classify and can result in significant litigation between the parties. Therefore, it is important to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure you understand the value and classification of your career with respect to the equitable distribution process.
A significant debate among spouses is the value that one spouses’ career provides to the marriage. This is especially true in cases where the other spouse refrained from maintaining their own career to support their spouse in their education or training. However, Florida courts have routinely held that a career, profession, or degree obtained by a spouse, even if during the marriage, is not considered to be marital property. However, Florida allows the court to take the career of a spouse and subsequent actions of the respective spouse into account in other ways.
For instance, when considering alimony, the court looks to a number of factors including: “The financial resources of each party, including both marital and nonmarital assets; the earning potential, job skills, and employability of each part, as well as the time it would take for either party to get the training or education that would allow that party to become employed; each party’s contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, education, child care, and career building of the other party; The sources of income available to each party; and any other factor that may be necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.” These factors allow the court to consider the benefits of the professional career of a spouse including the income received, the employability, and resources available to them. In return, the court may also consider the support provided by the unemployed spouse to aid in the professional career of the other spouse. Therefore, the career of a spouse may not be subject to distribution, but its overall value may be considered when determining alimony awards.
Another method the court may consider the employment of a spouse is when determining the division of marital assets. The career itself is not divisible, but the court considers the benefits provided from the career to be equitably divided. Benefits received from the career that are subject to equitable distribution may include: income, retirement accounts, pensions, IRAs, deferred compensation, business interests, stocks, severance pay, or profit-sharing accounts. When dividing marital assets under the equitable distribution scheme, the court may consider the financial conditions of the parties, contributions of each party to the career directly or indirectly, earning potentials, and whether either spouse interrupted a career or education during the marriage or contributed to the other spouse’s career or education. Therefore, the spouse who did not obtain a professional career is still entitled to the retain the benefits accrued from their spouse’s profession during the course of the marriage.
Careers of a spouse can be a significant asset of a party and a marriage. Proper classification of your career is imperative to a fair distribution of property and can affect other aspects of your divorce. Therefore, ensure you are properly represented by consulting with a knowledgeable attorney.
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