Of course nobody plans on getting divorced. If, however, you find that you are unable to continue with your marriage, there are important actions that men, in particular should take to protect their futures in the event of a divorce. The attorneys at The Law Place understand the specific issues associated with divorce from the male point of view. We have the necessary experience as well as a solid understanding of Florida divorce law and will work hard to protect your rights and your future.
About Your Florida Divorce
The state of Florida offers no-fault divorce, meaning neither party is obligated to state fault when filing for divorce, rather can simply cite irreconcilable differences. The laws which abolished the necessity of stating fault effectively lessened the emotional trauma between spouses as well as the potential harm to the children of the marriage. All that must be proven is that a marriage exists, at least one of the spouses has been a resident of the state of Florida for a period of six months, and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. In the event one of the spouses has been declared incompetent for a period of three years prior to the filing of the divorce, the filing party may be granted a divorce. Fault may be considered in the award of spousal support, and possibly in the determination of parental responsibility, or custody.
What Happens after the Petition for Dissolution is Filed?
The attorney for the filing party will file a Petition for Dissolution and the other spouse will be served with notice of the petition—and will receive a copy of the petition. The respondent will have the opportunity to contest the divorce or file a counter-petition. An answer must be given within twenty days, then each party will be required to provide financial documents and a complete financial affidavit to the other within 45 days, or before a temporary relief hearing.
Contested or Uncontested?
The divorce will either be uncontested—meaning both parties are in agreement about all aspects of the divorce including asset division and child custody—or it will be contested, in which case there will likely be little or no agreement about such issues. Those couples who agree on all issues related to their divorce can enter into a marital settlement agreement and a Parenting Plan, which will be signed by the judge. Uncontested divorces generally take from 4-5 weeks.
Mediation and Asset Division
Couples who do not agree about the divorce details will likely go back and forth through their respective attorneys. The judge may order the couple to attend mediation, and if mediation is unsuccessful, the judge may make the final determinations regarding the divorce details. Asset division is generally a sticking point with many couples. Florida operates under the equitable distribution model as opposed to community property distribution. Equitable distribution strives for a fair and balanced settlement rather than a 50/50 settlement.
Spousal support can also be an issue: if there is disagreement regarding spousal support, the judge will consider several factors, including the length of the marriage as well as the age, physical and mental health, relative incomes and ability to make a living of each party. If one spouse sacrificed his or her career in order to bolster the other’s career, this will be taken into consideration. If one spouse stayed home with the children and/or was a homemaker, those contributions will factor in as well. Florida has a variety of spousal support options, and is one of the few states which still awards permanent alimony in some instances.
Parental Responsibility Division
Finally, parental responsibilities will be decided through the use of a Parenting Plan which details the times the child or children will spend with each parent as well as which parent will be responsible for making educational, medical and religious choices for the children and who will make the day-to-day decisions. Child support is calculated based on a formula set forth by the state. Florida courts base their decisions regarding parental responsibility on the best interests of the child, therefore will rarely deny visitation to one parent unless there is evidence of child abuse, domestic violence, or an alcohol or drug problem on the part of that parent.
Factors for Men to Consider Prior to a Divorce
In addition to the basics of a Florida divorce, men should consider the following issues:
• If you have the slightest inkling that your wife may take crucial financial documents and records in an attempt to gain a better divorce settlement, make copies of every important document and move these papers to a safe place or give them to your attorney if you have already retained one. Mortgage papers, bank account information, telephone records, property titles, loan information, debit card records, and records relating to expensive jewelry, artwork or furniture should all be moved to a safe location.
• If you think your bank accounts could be cleaned out, go to the bank, divide joint bank accounts in half, and deposit your half in your own name. Make sure you keep careful records of these transactions. Also make sure the household bills are covered and that your children are taken care of financially, or you risk annoying a judge.
• To avoid having joint credit cards maxed out before your divorce is final, close joint credit or loan accounts, and notify banks and credit card companies that you will no longer be responsible for charges made by your spouse. Do the right thing and let your wife know what you have done so she is not left in the grocery checkout line with no way to pay.
• If your wife and children are covered on the health insurance you receive through your place of employment, don’t drop them from the policy until a judge says you can. If you are responsible for paying child support, you may be ordered to keep the children on your health insurance policy.
• As you are probably aware, should you move out of the marital residence during the divorce, you will have to maintain two households which can be very expensive. Cancel anything which is not absolutely necessary, such as extra telephone lines or even satellite television. Do NOT, however have the utilities cut off in the home where your wife and children live.
• If you have a retirement fund or pension, any of those funds contributed to during your marriage are marital assets and will be divided as such. You can, however, fill out the paperwork to have your employer stop the contributions to your 401(k) account until the divorce is final.
• Make a careful inventory of everything in your home so that items don’t mysteriously disappear prior to the finalization of the divorce. Taking photographs or a videotape can be a good idea.
• If you and your wife have valuable collections, jewelry, artwork, firearms, cash or heirlooms in your home, remove them to a safe place. You are not trying to hide the assets—and will include them on the inventory—however this could prevent items you hold dear from being sold at a garage sale, out of spite.
• If you don’t have one, go to the bank and get a safe deposit box.
• Finally, find a good divorce lawyer and set up an appointment immediately.
An attorney from The Law Place will meet with you and give you an idea of how the divorce will proceed. Our attorneys will counsel you not to sign anything before we review it and will advise you regarding any other matters of importance during this stressful time of your life.