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Guarding Your High-Value Non-Marital Assets in (and Before) a Florida Divorce

Many divorces by middle-class or working-class couples without children, no matter how complex emotionally, may be relatively simple from a legal perspective. The spouses often need only to divide up a marital house, the vehicles, banking and financial accounts and basic personal property. A high-asset divorce, by contrast, is often much more complicated. The spouses may own businesses, commercial real estate, significant investments or other items with large values. If that’s you, then, as you enter this profound transition in your life, make sure you have a skilled South Florida divorce attorney by your side to protect you and ensure that you get everything you should in your divorce judgment.

When it comes to getting a divorce judgment that gives you everything that’s rightfully yours, one essential thing is to make sure your separate property is recognized as such. If, for example, you own properties that you bought before your marriage, you want to be sure that they remain 100% yours at the conclusion of your divorce process.

That was what one Tampa Bay area husband was fighting for in his recent divorce case. He had purchased several parcels of real estate prior to the marriage, and bought one more during the marriage. The husband purchased the final parcel by increasing the mortgage on the other parcels.

One thing that anyone like this husband has to be extremely careful about is something the law calls “commingling” of assets. If you get married owning significant non-marital assets, and the court in your subsequent divorce finds that you did commingle your non-marital assets with marital assets, then those non-marital assets become marital, and become subject to Florida’s law of equitable distribution as part of your divorce.

One thing that does not constitute commingling, according to the appeals court in this husband’s case, is borrowing against your non-marital property to purchase new marital property.

How to avoid getting harmed by the ‘commingling’ of assets

If you are someone who engages in buying and selling or real estate – both before and during your marriage – then commingling is something with which you must be highly vigilant. For example, say a husband purchased properties during his marriage using the money he earned from selling other properties purchased before the marriage, and that he placed them in corporate structures he owned separately.

In that scenario, he may be able to defend the properties’ status as non-marital, but only if he kept the properties and the money from those sales separate. If, by contrast, he put the money from sales of his non-marital properties into a bank account where he also deposited things like work income earned during the marriage, then a court would likely determine that to be commingling and the assets would become marital, and subject to equitable distribution.

There is, of course, another way to take some of the “guesswork” out of the status of your assets acquired before the marriage. That is a prenuptial agreement. With a validly drafted and validly executed prenuptial agreement, you can dictate with considerable specificity who gets what, in terms of assets, in the event that you and your spouse divorce. As long as the agreement isn’t legally invalid, then you’ll be entitled to get whatever you were scheduled to get in that document.

Whether it is divorce litigation or prenuptial agreement negotiation, you undeniably want to protect what’s yours. To help you do that, look to the skilled family law attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman. Armed with our extensive knowledge and our many years of experience, we are here to give you the powerful and effective legal advocate you deserve.

Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.

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