Divorce in the state of Florida can be a confusing process, due in part to the changes made to Florida’s divorce statutes. Some laws pertaining to divorce which have been in force for decades have been modified, making it more difficult to navigate the divorce process. The attorneys of The Law Place are well aware of all the changes made to Florida divorce law and will ensure you receive the most knowledgeable, most experienced divorce representation available. Our Florida family law attorneys can assist you no matter whether you are dealing with a hotly contested, contentious divorce or a more amicable, uncontested divorce. We can help you with issues related to spousal support, child custody, property distribution or child support as well as a high net worth divorce.
What Are the Grounds for Seeking a Divorce?
Most all states in the U.S.—including Florida—now offer what is known as a “no-fault” divorce, meaning fault, such as adultery, mental cruelty or abandonment, need not be charged against one party or the other. The move to a no-fault divorce is a positive one as it tends to lessen the emotional battles seen in a divorce as well as keeping the divorce process shorter. The no-fault divorce in the state of Florida claims “irreconcilable differences,” meaning the couple simply has issues that cannot be worked out, necessitating a divorce.
A no-fault divorce can be obtained so long as both parties are in agreement that they should be divorced on grounds of irreconcilable differences. A Florida divorce may also be obtained if one of the parties has suffered a mental incapacity for three years prior to the divorce. Mental incapacity is rarely used as grounds for a Florida divorce as it is much simpler to claim irreconcilable differences. While you do not have to claim fault in the state of Florida in order to obtain a divorce, there are two instances in which grounds may factor in to your divorce.
The state of Florida offers a “limited divorce,” which is similar to a legal separation in other states. This limited divorce can be requested based on the claim of cruelty, desertion or voluntary separation. The second instance in which grounds may be considered is when the spouse requesting spousal support can offer proof of infidelity on the part of the other spouse. The judge may take adultery and the surrounding circumstances into account when calculating the amount of spousal support.
Residency Requirements for Your Florida Divorce
Every state protects its jurisdiction, ensuring appropriate laws are applied, and Florida is no exception. In order to prevent your divorce case from being dismissed, you must make sure that you meet Florida’s residency requirements. Many people believe they must file for divorce in the state where they were married, but this is not the case. In order to file for a divorce in the state of Florida, either you or your spouse must have resided in Florida for at least six months prior to the filing of the divorce petition as per Florida statute 61.021.
Will Your Divorce Be Contested or Uncontested?
In order to ensure your divorce does not drag out any longer than is absolutely necessary, it is important that you understand the differences between a contested and uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree about anything, then you will likely have a contested divorce. This means you cannot even agree about whether you should get divorced as well as the division of assets, the allocation of debts, the award of spousal support, child custody or the creation of a Parenting Plan.
The uncontested divorce is the exact opposite; both parties are in agreement about the necessity of a divorce, there is agreement about how assets and debts will be divided as well as whether spousal support is warranted. If there are children from the marriage, an uncontested divorce has both parents in agreement about what is in the best interests of the children. A workable Parenting Plan is agreed upon by both parents, and there is agreement regarding child support. Uncontested divorces proceed through the legal system much more quickly, requiring no intervention from outside parties. If your goal is to have an uncontested divorce, both spouses should make a list of priorities then take a look at the other’s list to determine whether you are largely “in sync” regarding the direction you believe the divorce will take.
Often, what begins as an uncontested divorce rapidly turns into a hotly contested divorce. You and your spouse may enter the divorce process assuming you are in agreement, then find out, to your dismay, that there are areas in which there is no agreement and little hope of reaching a mutually acceptable solution. Judges and attorneys generally prefer uncontested divorces, however if you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement on your own, the judge will reach one for you—and neither you nor your spouse may be happy with the outcome.
The complexities of a contested divorce require a highly experienced family law attorney who can make the process as simple as humanly possible. Even if your divorce is uncontested you will nonetheless benefit from having a divorce attorney by your side to guide you through the process and ensure it goes as quickly and painlessly as possible. Many of those who choose to handle their own divorce end up extremely sorry about that decision down the road.
Child Custody in the State of Florida
Nothing fuels divorce battles more than disagreements regarding child custody issues. Like most states, Florida bases custody decisions on the “best interests of the child.” This broad statement encompasses the ability of each parent to competently care for the child, the individual and special needs of the child, the work schedules of each parent and how the child will adjust to the home, school and community environment of each parent. When possible, the court will try to keep the children in the environment they are accustomed to rather than causing them to change schools or homes or move away from friends and family.
Parents who can set aside their differences can compile a Parenting Plan which addresses the needs of the child or children, setting out specific schedules for the times each parent will be responsible for the children. Rather than the term “custody,” Florida courts prefer to use the term “parental responsibility.” This parental responsibility can be awarded on a joint basis or a sole basis with a time-sharing agreement. The parent granted sole parental responsibility will make day-to-day decisions without the input of the other parent including decisions regarding education, medical treatment and religious upbringing.
Sole parental responsibility is generally only granted when one parent has a history of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, or any other actions which could have caused harm to the child. Shared parental responsibility is much more common and allows both parents to share the day-to-day decisions regarding the children including education and medical decisions.
Spousal Support in Florida
Florida is one of the few states which still awards permanent spousal support in some instances. There are several types of spousal support which may be awarded, should the judge determine it is warranted. Permanent spousal support may be awarded in a long-term marriage when there is considerable disparity between the incomes of the spouses or when disability of one spouse is a factor. Permanent spousal support lasts until the receiving spouse remarries or one of the spouses dies, unless application for modification of permanent alimony is granted. Lump-sum alimony is a set amount which is either paid all at one time, or is set up to be paid over a specific time period.
Rehabilitative spousal support is awarded to one spouse as a means of allowing that spouse to “catch up” on their career via returning to college or learning or re-learning a trade. Bridge-the-gap spousal support is short-term, lasting a few months to a couple of years and is meant to assist one spouse in transitioning from married to single. Lastly, temporary spousal support may be granted during the divorce to assist one spouse during the divorce process. A judge will take into account the length of the marriage, the age and physical abilities of each spouse, the standard of living during the marriage and all sources of income available to each spouse when determining whether spousal support is warranted.
Division of Assets in Your Florida Divorce
Florida is an equitable distribution state as opposed to a community property state. In a community property state, the assets of the couple are divided 50/50, regardless of whether such a division is fair. Florida’s equitable distribution laws attempt an asset division which is a little closer to equal. Issues the judge will consider when dividing a couple’s assets include:
• How long the couple has been married
• The age and physical and emotional health of each spouse
• The level of assets brought to the marriage by each spouse
• The standard of living enjoyed by each spouse during the marriage
• Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
• Each spouse’s earning potential as well as their economic situation at the time of the divorce
• Whether one spouse significantly contributed to the other’s education, training or earning power
• Tax effects of any potential asset division for each spouse
• The contributions of one spouse regarding child-rearing and homemaking
• The current value of marital property
• Any other factors considered material by the court
The attorneys at The Law Place understand that ending a marriage is never easy, however we want to help you move on with as little disruption to your life as possible. Whether your marriage is uncontested or full of challenges, we will fight aggressively for your rights and be your trusted advocate throughout your divorce.