Anyone getting married later in life in Florida should be aware of our state's equitable distribution laws. You may assume that the assets you bring to the marriage will remain yours if you later divorce, but that may not be the case. Depending on what you do the property during your marriage, your separate property can become marital property.
One example is if you refinance a house. Many mortgage companies require your spouse's name on the deed if you obtain a new loan. If you do that, you have just made a gift of half of the home to your spouse.
A similar transmutation can happen to other assets that you thought were yours:
- If you deposit money in a joint bank account, the money becomes marital property.
- If you add your spouse's name to a stock account, it becomes marital property.
- If you have retirement benefits at work, your spouse is entitled to an equitable share of the benefits accrued during your marriage.
- If you own a business, your spouse may be entitled to a portion of it his or her contributions to the business during the marriage.
One way you can protect your separate property is to have a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement can spell out which assets are yours to keep and which assets your spouse will have if you divorce. Absent a prenuptial agreement, a judge may end up deciding what is and is not marital property.
The Nix Law, P.A., in Orlando drafts prenuptial agreements for clients in the Orlando area.