Once you file for divorce it may feel as though the divorce takes on a life of its own. While it can be difficult to step back and look at your situation dispassionately, it can make a huge difference in the eventual outcome. Of course you are emotional, sad, upset, scared about your future and maybe even angry—and all of those are perfectly normal emotions during a divorce. While you may not be thinking clearly, what you can do to protect your rights and your future is to speak to an attorney from The Law Place.
Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to ensure a more positive outcome for your divorce. We understand that you are likely getting divorced because you truly see no other option and you believe your marriage cannot be saved. The Law Place attorneys will ensure all the legalities are covered during your divorce, giving you a bit of space in which to reassess your life and determine what direction you will take when the divorce is final.
Do You Need Grounds for a Florida Divorce?
From a practical standpoint, either you or your spouse will file a Petition for Dissolution, the other will “answer” that petition, and the divorce is set in motion. Florida is a no-fault state, meaning you do not have to claim fault on the part of your spouse in order to file for divorce. You can simply state that your marriage is irretrievably broken with no hope of reconciliation. Either you or your spouse must have been a resident in the state of Florida for at least six months prior to the time you file your Petition for Dissolution.
Should both parties agree on every aspect of the divorce, including the division of assets, spousal support and child custody, a Marital Settlement Agreement can be drawn up by your attorney, it can be filed with the court, signed by the judge, and your divorce can be complete within 4-5 weeks. Unfortunately, very few people agree on all issues in their divorce and the result is negotiation between attorneys, mediation and possibly a trial in which a judge will determine the outcome of your divorce. There are many things you can do before the divorce is filed which will result in a divorce outcome you are likely to be much happier with. Some of those include:
• Consult a family law attorney early on, once you believe your marriage is over and you will eventually be filing for divorce. Ask plenty of questions and heed the answers. Family law attorneys have seen every possible divorce scenario and know that many people who believe their spouse will treat them fairly in the divorce end up shocked and dismayed. A qualified family law attorney can help you avoid traps you never even knew existed, and will have a solid understanding of Florida divorce law.
• Have a good understanding of your family’s finances. Know how much your spouse earns and how much is spent monthly on such items as the mortgage, utilities, groceries, car payments, and other expenses. Make sure you have access to your tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, retirement funds, mortgage information and any other items related to your finances.
• Take a realistic look at your earning capacity. Whether you are currently working or expect to be working after the divorce, you need to take a long, hard look at your job skills and the likelihood of securing a job.
• Make a list of all the valuable assets you and your spouse own jointly. If possible, photograph or videotape such items as artwork, jewelry, collections or anything with a value over $500.
• If you have a stockbroker, gather information about the stocks owned and find out about your life insurance and health insurance as well.
• Determine whether you will stay in the family home or will be looking for a place to live. If you will have primary custody of the children, finding a new home is much more challenging. Figure out what it will cost you to move, including start-up expenses such as telephone, cable and Internet installation as well as deposits for electricity, gas and water.
• Once you feel a divorce is likely, start saving every bit of money you can in anticipation of the coming expenses.
• Apply for a credit card in your name alone and begin building up your own credit history. Never charge more than you can pay by the due date, then pay the entire balance.
• Try to remain involved with your children. It is natural that your divorce will rock your world, just don’t forget that it is also affecting the lives of your children. The court will also consider the depth and quality of your relationship when making custody decisions.
• If you have good reason to believe your spouse will empty your joint bank account once you file for divorce, withdraw half of the money in your joint account, and put it in a new account until the assets are distributed. Keep careful record of this transaction so the judge doesn’t think you are trying to hide assets.
• If at all possible, remain in the marital residence to avoid weakening your position in the divorce, particularly regarding custody decisions. If you feel you need to move out of the marital home, discuss it with your divorce attorney before you make a decision (unless domestic abuse is a factor, in which case, take immediate action).
Taking action prior to your divorce may seem adversarial to you, but remember that all you are doing is protecting yourself and your future. A divorce is one of the greatest stressors in life, and being prepared can make it go much more smoothly. The attorneys at The Law Place want you to have the best possible outcome for your specific set of circumstances. We will do our best to bring you through your divorce with your dignity intact, offering the kind of practical guidance you truly need in order to navigate the divorce roller coaster.