Here is a question I have been asked a lot, recently: Should I go ahead and get divorced now, or should I wait until the economy gets better and my house and stocks go up in value, and then file? We hardly have any equity in our house, now, so neither of us can buy out the other, and we can’t agree on what to do with the house. Plus, my spouse had a big 401K and other investments, and now those accounts are worth about half of what they used to be, and I want my fair share.
ANSWER: You and your spouse can enter into a marital settlement agreement that resolves all of the issues between you in a way that defers resolution of some issues to a later time. The separate issues in a dissolution of marriage action can be adjudicated separately, if the judge agrees to do that. So it is possible to dissolve the bonds of marriage, order child support and a contact schedule for the children, distribute some of the marital assets and debts, and reserve on final adjudication of equitable distribution of other marital assets and liabilities –for example waiting until a later time to decide whether to sell the marital home or whether one party will buy out the interest of the other. It is always better to resolve all the issues in a case at the time a final judgment is entered, else it is really only a partial final judgment because some issues were not resolved. A marital settlement agreement is supposed to resolve all issues between the parties finally and forever, so it is better to have a specific date by which the full and complete equitable distribution has to occur or else a fall back distribution will happen. This can be projected out a number of years to anticipate when the economy will recover. Each person’s case is different, so each settlement agreement needs to be drafted to a particular set of circumstances found in a particular case, taking into consideration tax consequences and business and employment effects. You should consider that when a relationship between a husband and wife is irretrievably broken, the legal grounds to dissolve the marriage have accrued. The relationship is not going to mend, no matter how long the parties stay legally married. Adultery is still a criminal offense in Florida, even though it is seldom prosecuted, so marriage is a legal impediment to a married person pursuing another romantic relationship.