One of the objectives in a divorce proceeding is to distribute marital assets. Florida Statute § 61.075 titled “Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets and Liabilities” lists factors the trial court must consider when distributing marital assets. Section 61.075(1) provides in part:
[I]n distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal , unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors, including:
(a) The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker;
(b) The economic circumstances of the parties;
(c) The duration of the marriage;
(d) Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party;
(e) The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse;
(f) The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party;
(g) The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or in the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties;
(h) The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the martial home;
(i) The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to filing of the petition.
(j) Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Recently, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal considered whether it was reversible error if the trial court did not consider “all relevant factors” before making an unequal distribution of martial assets. See, Watson v. Watson, No. 1D12-5646 (Fla. 1st DCA. Oct. 16, 2013). In Florida, the distribution of marital assets and liabilities should be equal unless an unequal distribution is warranted based on the statutory factors. Id. at *2, citing Boutwell v. Adams, 920 So.2d 151, 153 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006). If the trial court grants an unequal distribution, it must make findings of fact to substantiate the disparity in distribution. Id.
In Watson, the trial court made an unequal distribution of assets based on factors (a), (b), (c) and (f) of Fla. Stat. § 61.075(1). As spelled out above, these factors include consideration of such things as contributions to the marriage, economic circumstances of the parties and the duration of the marriage. On appeal, however, the First Circuit found that the trial court’s findings of fact did not address “those mandatory factors listed in subparts (d), (e), (g), (h) or (i) of section 61.075(1).” Id. at *2. By failing to include the “statutorily mandated findings” in its decision, the appellate court in Watson had to remand the final judgment back to the trial court to make the required findings and, if necessary, draft a new equitable distribution scheme. Id.