high asset divorce

Is Equitable Distribution Really Fair?

When spouses seek a divorce, they are generally empowered to reach – and work with their legal representation to finalize – any property division terms that work for them. However, not everyone is in a position to reach an agreement about property division with their spouse absent judicial intervention. As a result, the Florida family courts are sometimes called upon to make decisions regarding contested property division matters during any particular couple’s divorce process.

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that judges who are called upon to make rulings in such cases are bound to divide marital property equitably, not necessarily equally. In the context of property division law, equitable is meant to serve as a synonym for “fair.” But, a recent article published in the Florida Bar Journal – which is a publication read by most (if not all) practicing family law attorneys in the State of Florida – understandably begs the question of whether equitable distribution actually results in fair outcomes.

What Is The Concern?

As our experienced Tampa, FL divorce lawyer team can explain in more personalized detail for those who are facing divorce, the equitable distribution method considers several factors to ensure a just outcome, but whether it truly results in fair outcomes can vary significantly depending on the specifics of each case.

An equitable distribution approach generally takes into account the duration of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, the income or property brought into the marriage by each party, and the standard of living established during the marriage. It also considers the economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the division of property is to become effective, the contributions of each spouse to the marital estate, and the non-economic contributions to the marriage, such as child care and homemaking.

One of the strengths of equitable distribution is its flexibility. Courts can tailor the division of assets to the unique circumstances of each marriage, which theoretically leads to fairer outcomes. However, this flexibility can also lead to unpredictability and subjective decisions based on the discretion of the court. For example, the valuation of non-monetary contributions and the future financial prospects of each spouse can vary widely, leading to different interpretations of what is fair.

While equitable distribution aims to be fair, it does not guarantee an equal split of assets, which can sometimes result in one party feeling disadvantaged. High-asset divorces, in particular, can be affected by significant disparities in the final distribution, especially if one spouse has a much higher earning capacity or greater separate assets that were excluded from the marital estate.

The concept of equitable distribution is designed to allow for a fair and just allocation of marital assets based on a broad range of factors. While this can lead to equitable outcomes that are tailored to the individual circumstances of each marriage, the subjectivity and variability inherent in the process can also result in outcomes that are perceived as less than fair by one or both parties. For those going through a divorce, working with an experienced family law attorney at The McKinney Law Group may mean the difference between advocating effectively for an equitable division of assets that truly reflects the contributions and needs of each party, and suffering an unjust outcome to a litigated property division process.