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Anyone in Florida who is contemplating a divorce or who is at the beginning stages of a divorce has probably heard the term, “equitable distribution,” when it comes to the property division part of the case. The legalese-sounding term may seem straightforward enough, but, like many terms in the legal realm, there are nuances to how the term is interpreted. So, what should one know about the “equitable distribution” of assets in a divorce?

Well, for starters, there is one important concept to understand: “equitable” is not the same as “equal.” Those who are getting ready to begin a divorce case and who believe that their assets and debts will be split 50/50 may be in for a rude awakening. The facts of any given case, and the needs of the parties involved, will determine what is “equitable.” An even split down the middle is unlikely, in general.

A family law judge in Florida will consider a wide variety of factors when it comes to making a determination on the equitable distribution of assets. For example, the judge may consider: child support and alimony obligations that will result from the divorce; the age of each spouse; the health of each spouse; how much each spouse has contributed to the couple’s net worth, considering also any time that one spouse or the other may have devoted to child-rearing or other unpaid work; what future financial needs the spouses will have after the divorce; and the duration of the divorce, among other potential factors.

Laying all this out in front of a family law judge can be a messy and time-consuming process. That is why many couples, even in the most bitter of divorces, choose to engage in out-of-court negotiations to attempt to arrive at a divorce settlement that both sides consider to be fair.