Sentimental Attachments to Property in a Divorce
When you are planning on a divorce in Orlando or elsewhere in Central Florida, it is important to be prepared for the process of property division. As you might already be aware, all marital property, including all assets and debts, will be divided in a divorce according to a theory of equitable distribution. While the court will divide property in a manner that it determines to be fair to the parties, spouses can also enter into negotiations with help from their divorce lawyers to work out a Marital Settlement Agreement (or MSA) in which they determine how the marital assets and debts will be divided. While Marital Settlement Agreements can be useful for many spouses who are going through a divorce and can help to ensure that each party is able to retain certain assets that may have particular value, there are also risks.
Most obviously, parties can place a high sentimental value on a certain asset, and that “value” might be wildly different from a fair market value that has been assessed for the property. In such cases, a spouse who is insisting on keeping a certain asset, such as a marital home or a piece of art, could end up negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement in which she or he does not actually receive a fair distribution of the marital property based on market value. We want to say more, and we want to emphasize that our Orlando divorce lawyers can help.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Property
Under Florida law, in a proceeding for the dissolution of marriage (i.e., a divorce), all property owned by the spouses is classified either as marital or separate property, and all marital property gets divided between the parties in manner that the court determines to be equitable to both of them. To decide what an equitable distribution of marital property looks like, the court looks at many different factors, such as the standard of living established during the marriage, the contributions of each spouse to the marriage (financial and otherwise), the contributions of either spouse to the other spouse’s career (financial and otherwise), and age and health of the parties.
An equitable distribution does not mean an equal or 50/50 distribution, but instead means a distribution that is fair based on all of those factors. Courts then divide property based on its market value, not the perceived value of an asset by one of the spouses.
Risks of Attaching High Sentimental Values to Marital Assets
If you want to negotiate a Marital Settlement Agreement to avoid having the court equitably divide your property, you should not risk attaching too much sentimental value to an asset that has substantially less market value. For example, if you owned a painting with your spouse that has a market value of $20,000, but the painting has particular meaning to you, you could be thinking now that you would be willing to forego $50,000 or more in assets simply to keep the painting.
While it might be worth it in the short term, you could end up in a difficult place financially as a result. You should work with appraisers for any high value property, and while emotional or sentimental attachment to property can play some role in the negotiations, it should not be an overriding factor that results in an inequitable distribution of the marital property.
Seek Advice from an Orlando Divorce Attorney
If you have questions about the division of marital property in your Florida divorce, one of the experienced Orlando divorce attorneys at our firm can assist you. Contact Anderson & Ferrin for more information about how the process of equitable distribution works or to discuss the possibility of negotiating a Marital Settlement Agreement with your spouse.