Although it is a common misconception that couples can become legally separated in Florida, the state does not recognize such legal actions. However, absent the recognition, the date you and your spouse separated can become a significant factor considered by a court in your divorce in relation to financial and equitable distribution. In order to adequately understand the significance and impact a date of separation may have on your divorce proceeding, consult with an experienced attorney who can assess your case and provide a detailed explanation regarding these significant details.
Although Florida does not recognize legal separations, the date you and your spouse separated can become a significant factor in the court’s determination of an equitable distribution award. Equitable distribution involves the classification of property as marital or non-marital, the valuation of the property, and subsequent distribution of the property between the parties. Your date of separation can be a crucial part in the timeline to establish property as marital or non-marital, and the date of valuation of the property.
The term separation, and when a separation of a couple officially began, has been defined and interpreted in many different ways by the courts. However, most courts rely on the actions that provide reasonable notice that the parties no longer wish to remain husband and wife. For some, these actions include sleeping in separate rooms, living in separate residences, or filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Discuss the actions you took to separate from your spouse with your lawyer. Evidence of the affirmative steps taken, will aid the court in determining the proper date to consider the couple to have been separated.
The separation date is crucial in certain cases because the court is given a large amount of flexibility when determining the value and classification of an asset. Under Florida Statute 61.075(7), “The date for determining value of assets and the amount of liabilities identified or classified as marital is the date or dates as the judge determines is just and equitable under the circumstances. Different assets may be valued as of different dates, as, in the judge’s discretion, the circumstances require.” With the judge being able to determine a date that is just and equitable, many decide to take into account the date the parties took actions to separate themselves. Therefore, if after you separated from your spouse, they acquired a new debt, you received a bonus at work, or the value of your retirement accounts continued to grow, these items could be considered by the court to be nonmarital and therefore separate property of the parties. Further, the court may find it fair to value certain property at the separation date as actions taken following the separation, by a single spouse that significantly increased or decreased the value of the property in question.
Although certain dates may seem insignificant, there are requirements under Florida Statute that must be adhered to and evidence of specific dates will aid your attorney in arguing for certain cut off dates and claims of assets in your case. Being able to properly acknowledge and provide evidentiary support for your date of separation can significantly aid your case and assist your lawyer in protecting your rights during the divorce process.
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