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Division of assets and debts in a divorce.

The marriage is over and you must go your separate ways. How do you fairly and equitably divide up the assets and debts that the two of you have accumulated over the years? Who pays what debts?

In Florida we use the concept of the marital assets and debts. The marriage is treated as a form of economic partnership. Everything of value that is earned or accumulated during the marriage is considered a marital asset and all exiting debts incurred since the date of marriage are considered marital debts.

The starting point in the equitable division of debts and assets in a divorce is to evenly divide the net marital value. All of the martial assets are identified and their total value is computed. Then all of the marital debts are identified and the total computed. The total amount of debt is subtracted from the total value of the assets and the result is the net marital estate. This number is then divided by two and that result is the net value each party should take from the marriage. Then assets and debts are allocated to each party with the ultimate goal of leaving each party with a net value of one half of the martial estate.

The marital assets and debts are identified as of the date the divorce is filed or the date the parties entered into a written separation agreement. The date the assets are valued is usually that date but can vary depending upon the nature of the assets and the special facts in each case.

In allocating debts and assets in a divorce the owner of each asset and the individual who owes the debt to a third party will begin by having that asset and or debt listed on his or her side of the "balance sheet." Then the joint debts and assets are allocated.

Although an individual debt is deemed marital, the court cannot make the creditor agree to look to the other spouse for payment. As an example, if a credit card is in only one name, it is best that that debt be credited to the person who owes the money. Likewise if an automobile is in one name alone, it is easier to leave the title and value on the owner's side of the calculations.

As with most aspects of Family Law, the devil is in the details. Identifying the date of value of each asset. The nature of any debt. Who can afford to pay car note or mortgage payment? If you need my help, go to my web site at www.peppler or call my office for a consult.

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