These days, it is not uncommon to enter into a marriage with someone who already has children. As with any family, stepparents typically share financial resources with their spouses as well as responsibility for family expenses, including the care and support of any stepchildren. If you file for divorce, Florida generally does not permit you to recoup money paid toward the care of your stepchildren during the marriage.
Marriage and Expenses, Generally
Once you get married, it is assumed you and your spouse share household expenses equally, including those related to your stepchildren. Even if one spouse makes more money than the other or is the sole breadwinner, the other spouse may contribute toward the household in other ways, such as serving in the role of homemaker and taking care of the home. Due to this familial partnership, spouses often pool their funds and resources together to pay household bills, usually in a joint bank account. In Florida, money earned during the marriage is considered the marital property of both spouses.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that when spouses divorce, the court will divide marital property and debt between spouses in a manner that is fair and just, though not necessarily equal. Division does not apply to separate property -- obtained before the marriage or received by inheritance or gift during the marriage -- as this remains under the individual ownership of the spouses. As in all states, Florida expects marital property to be used in support of the family; therefore, the court is unlikely to return marital funds spent on your stepchildren during the marriage. However, if you used your separate property to support your stepchildren, the court may reimburse these funds to you depending on the circumstances.
If you used separate funds to pay expenses related to your stepchildren, this doesn't mean reimbursement is automatic. If you commingled those funds with marital funds during your marriage -- for example, in a joint bank account -- it may be impossible for a court to distinguish the two. As a result, the court will be unable to identify what portion of your separate funds were used to support your stepchildren or pay any other household bills during the marriage, such as a mortgage. So unless you can trace funds in a commingled account back to their separate property source, the court will not return these funds to you upon divorce. Instead, it will simply treat the payments as marital debt, making it the responsibility of both spouses and not reimbursable to you.
Even if you can prove that you used your separate property to pay for certain expenses related to your stepchildren -- summer camp, for example -- the court may consider these payments a gift and still not return the money to you. Although getting reimbursed for money spent on your stepchildren is an uphill battle, it is not impossible. If you kept your separate property apart from marital property and established a record of any separate property used to support your stepchildren as loans, you may tip the scales in your favor. For example, you may be reimbursed if you gave your spouse checks for her children and labeled them "loan for child support" or indicated in a signed prenuptial agreement that funds from your separate bank account used to support your spouse's children are to be considered loans.