Asset division can become complicated for Florida LGBT couples

Splitting your possessions is a source of contention in many divorces. Like most other states in the country, Florida family courts use an equitable distribution standard when determining how to split up the possessions of people going through divorce. Typically, equitable distribution involves the allocation of assets acquired during the marriage to both spouses based on factors from the marriage, including each individual's financial contributions, the length of the marriage and the overall value of the marital assets.

For many couples in Florida, this process is relatively straightforward. However, LGBT couples can sometimes have unique considerations that can alter the outcome of asset division in a divorce. Specifically, issues related to the state not recognizing the union prior to a Supreme Court ruling could impact what is fair and reasonable in your case.

Have you and your spouse been cohabitating since before 2015?

Many couples in the LGBT community lived as though they were married long before they were legally able to secure the same rights as married heterosexual couples. With the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case, same-sex couples across the country secured the right to marry.

Florida couples had had that right since January of 2015, thanks to the ruling in the Brenner v. Scott in a U.S. district court. Whether it was the change in federal or state laws that had people rushing to the alter, many LGBT couples got married before the end of 2015 after years of waiting. However, it is possible that you and your spouse have shared your income and resources since well before that ruling.

You may have been sharing and pooling your assets and debts like a married couple long before the state recognized your marriage. In that situation, you may have unusual or unique concerns regarding how you split your assets when you end your marriage. Just because the state didn't legally recognize your marriage before 2015 doesn't mean that you weren't both contributing to the household prior to legalizing your union.

Civil union ceremonies and other informal commitments could impact your case

Many same-sex couples who were together before marriage for LGBT couples became legal at the federal level chose either:

  • to marry in another state that recognized their union while living in the states that did not
  • or to have a personal or spiritual ceremony that the state did not recognize at the time

Couples often lived like married couples, with rings and commingled finances, before making it legal.

If you had any kind of civil union, unofficial marriage or handfasting ceremony years before you legally married, that could help you establish an intention to legally combine your household and finances. Showing a history of shared accounts and financial commingling can also help expand your pool of marital property.

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Beverly L . Brennan A PARTNER AT MCLAUGHLIN & STERN, LLP - NAPLES, FLORIDA ATTORNEY & COUNSELOR AT LAW

Beverly L. Brennan, P.A.
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