Divorce and Property Improvements in Florida

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Most Common Family Law Issues:

How is property divided in a Florida divorce case?

Florida is an equitable distribution state. Unlike community property states, equitable distribution states do not make the assumption that all marital property will be split 50/50 between the partners in a divorce.
Instead, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the court will have to step in and distribute the property in a manner that is fair. This may not necessarily result in an equal distribution, but rather will depend on each spouse’s individual situation. This process involves classifying which properties are shared and which are separate, and then placing a monetary value on the properties. The properties will then be distributed accordingly.

Are property improvements considered shared or separate property in Florida?

Generally speaking, a Florida divorce court will consider several factors when assigning a reimbursement award for improvements to property such as remodeling a home. 
If marital funds have been used to improve a property, the improvement will usually be considered as marital or shared property. This is true even if the property in question was separately owned by one spouse. Since marital funds were used, the martial estate is entitled to reimbursement, i.e., both spouses will share in the increase in property value.
If separate funds were used to benefit the other spouse’s property, then a court may find that the contributing spouse is entitled to a full reimbursement of the costs of improvement. 
However, some courts may conclude that the one spouse was donating a gift to the other spouse, and thus they might not be reimbursed. Such determinations will vary largely from situation to situation depending on the facts of the case. For example, if both spouses signed on a home improvement loan, this would provide much support for the argument that the improvement was meant to be shared between the spouses. 

What other factors will be considered?

In determining reimbursement awards, Florida courts will consider a wide variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, the individual assets owned by each party, and the history of dealings between the two spouses. 
Florida does make a strong presumption that property improvements are marital property. Under equitable principles, the party seeking reimbursements is typically required to prove that they are entitled to a payment. They also have the burden of proving how much they spent in improving the property, or alternatively, how much the property has increased in value due to their efforts. 

Should I contact a Florida lawyer regarding property improvement disputes?

If you are involved in a dispute over reimbursements for property improvements, it may be necessary to contact a Florida lawyer. A competent divorce attorney can assist you in determining which properties are marital property and which ones are separate. In the event of a dispute, it is immensely important to gather supporting documents such as receipts and any writings related to the improvement project.

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Last Modified: 07-09-2014 01:47 PM PDT

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