During a divorce proceeding, one of the biggest questions is often “What date do we use to determine the value of a particular marital asset?”
For example, on what date do we look at a spouse’s 401k to assign a value to it for family law purposes? Should the date of separation be the valuation date, or should we use the date the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed? What about the date of the Final Judgment—is if ever proper to use that date?
Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.075(7), the Court has discretion in answering these questions. The statute allows the Court to select the date for determining the value of assets and the amount of liabilities based on Its belief as to what is just and equitable under the circumstances. Put simply, the Court can pick the date that It thinks will result in the fairest determination, all things considered. This broad discretion means it is important to explain clearly, and with supporting evidence, why you believe it is fair for that Court to use a date that benefits you in valuing a particular asset or liability.
In regards to the valuation of the property itself, the Court also must support Its final assignment of a value to a marital debt or liability with competent, substantial evidence. This means the Court usually should not assign values simply by splitting the difference between each party’s estimate of the property’s value. Of course, this all assumes that the parties have presented some actual evidence of the value of the property at issue (note that your own opinion of the value of your property is admissible evidence in a divorce case). If the parties present no evidence as to the value of an item, the Court need not speculate as the item’s value. This underscores the importance of making sure you can explain the value you assign to the debts and liabilities over which you are fighting!
As you can see, determining the date of valuation for marital assets and liabilities can be tricky. If you have questions about this issue, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your situation and ensure that you protected.