Is Florida a Community Property State?

Quick answer: no. Florida is not a community property state.

Instead, Florida follows the common law system of equitable distribution when it comes to marital property.

What is Community Property?

Community property is a legal concept that originated in Spanish law and is used in several states in the U.S. Under this system, any property acquired during the marriage is considered jointly owned by both spouses.

This includes income earned by either spouse, as well as assets purchased with that income. The community property system is based on the idea that marriage is a partnership, and thus, both partners should equally share the assets acquired during the marriage.

Key Features of Community Property:

  • Equal Ownership: Each spouse has a 50% ownership interest in all property acquired during the marriage.
  • Separate Property: Property owned by either spouse before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage is considered separate property and is not subject to division.
  • Division Upon Divorce: In the event of a divorce, community property is divided equally between the spouses.

Equitable Distribution

Florida uses an equitable distribution system instead of community property.

Equitable distribution is a legal principle used in common law states to divide marital property during a divorce. Unlike community property states, where assets are divided 50/50, equitable distribution aims to divide property fairly, though not necessarily equally. The court considers various factors to determine what constitutes a fair division of property.

Factors Considered in Equitable Distribution in Florida:

  • Duration of the Marriage: The length of the marriage can impact the division, with longer marriages potentially leading to a more equal distribution.
  • Economic Circumstances: The financial situation of each spouse, including their income, earning capacity, and financial needs, is considered.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: This includes both financial contributions and non-financial contributions, such as homemaking and child-rearing.
  • Interruption of Personal Careers: If one spouse has sacrificed their career or education to support the other spouse or to care for the family, this will be taken into account.
  • Desirability of Retaining Certain Assets: For example, if one spouse wishes to keep the family home, the court may consider the best interests of any children involved.
  • Wasteful Dissipation of Assets: If one spouse has squandered marital assets, this behavior can affect the division.
  • Other Factors: The court can consider any other factors it deems relevant to achieve a fair outcome.

Implications for Married Couples in Florida

Understanding that Florida is not a community property state and follows equitable distribution has several implications for married couples.

Couples should be aware that how they manage their finances and assets during the marriage can impact how these assets are divided if the marriage ends.

Couples may consider entering into prenuptial agreements to clearly define how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce.

You should prepare for a property division process that aims for fairness based on various factors, rather than an automatic 50/50 split.

Jon Alper

About the Author

I’m a nationally recognized attorney specializing in asset protection planning. I graduated with honors from the University of Florida Law School and have practiced law for almost 50 years.

I have been recognized as a legal expert by media outlets such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. I have helped thousands of clients protect their assets from creditors.