Florida Retirement Benefits and Divorce

In Florida, marital property, including retirement assets, are generally divided 50/50 between spouses.

The divorce laws in Florida are very simple, especially when it comes to how the marital liabilities and assets are distributed. Usually, all assets that are acquired from the date of the marriage to the date you filed for divorce can be divided between them by 50 percent.

Included as assets are pensions, 401 K plans and stocks because public policy has made created this simplistic approach. The reason is that a marriage is supposed to be a lifelong partnership that can enable both parties to pursue the participation in savings plans. Whether the enabling was because of "direct" or "passive," financial or emotional support does not matter. If at any time during the marriage there was asset accrual, the spouse did have some role.

Even though many couples get highly irritated that a pension or retirement plan is eligible for distribution, but in Florida, this is just simply the law. The first thing you should do is assess all the options and find out how these laws apply to you so you can know how to address them, instead of getting involved in a court case that is not winnable.

In regards to these cases, you are recommended to get the advice of a lawyer to find out what your personal equitable distribution options might be. There is one possibility regarding the court ordered 50 percent division of assets, which is an alternative dispute resolution. If a couple cannot come to a resolution and go to court, the court will be obligated to apply the law, but if you can come to an agreement and can settle out of court, the spouses are free to contract for an alternative.

Collaborative divorce or mediation are two options that can be handy for these purposes, but you must be prepared to be willing to give something in return for what you want, and know your rights because no doubt your spouse does. Still another option you have that is rarely successful is to request the court for an "unequal distribution" of your spouse's retirement asset. Most courts do not like having to go against the 50 percent presumption, which is why this option rarely works, plus there are high rates of reversible errors with judgments like these. Frequently, you will see the court award the retirement asset in full to the spouse who earned it, then as a way to offset the value of the retirement, give the other spouse something of equal value like the house, interest or a car.

It is when there are not any, or not enough other assets to equal the value of the retirement that this becomes impossible. One great thing is that on the date you file for divorce, and the court is made aware of your divorce intent, the marital term ends, and any money that accrues in a pension will be all yours. In addition, any money that was in a pension plan before the date of the marriage is not considered to be a marital asset. Be very aware however, that if voluntary contributions to assets like these will have no effect as to your ability to pay things like alimony or child support.

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