Divorce is never easy for anybody involved. The end of a marriage is a devastating event that nobody ever expects when they enter into a partnership with their spouse. Life happens, people change, and sometimes the only way to find happiness again is to move on from a bad marriage and start a new life after divorce.
Each state has its own specific rules for divorce. If you live in Florida, we want to help you understand the process better to make getting a divorce and starting your new life a little bit easier.
According to Florida’s Divorce Law, couples can end their marriages in one of two ways: divorce or annulment. The state does not allow or recognize legal separation.
Since Florida is a no-fault state, the spouse filing for the divorce only needs to state that the marriage is irreconcilably broken or that their partner is mentally debilitated. When choosing the latter, the law requires the spouse filing for divorce to provide evidence of the mental incapacitation of their spouse, which may include testimony from a medical expert.
To file for a divorce in the state of Florida, you must first meet certain residency requirements. Florida requires that one of the spouses be a resident of the state for at least 6 months prior to filing.
Upon the initialization of the divorce, the couple must wait for 20 days before their divorce can be finalized. After the mandatory 20 day waiting period, a Circuit Court Judge can sign a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage for the couple. This is the best-case scenario. Most cases take quite a bit longer.
A 20 day divorce is only possible when both spouses agree to the divorce and are not contesting any of the terms of the divorce. Issues that must be agreed on could include the division of property, debt, and assets, and details related to child custody and child support.
In most cases, the divorce process takes more time as couples sort out issues. In cases where the couple cannot agree, it can become a very long and tedious process. As such, there are numerous laws that cover all the various parts of the divorce process. These can Include:
1. Equitable Distribution
3. Child Issues
1. Equitable Distribution
Equitable distribution encompasses all the laws governing issues related to property division. According to Florida’s Divorce Law, each spouse should leave the marriage with half of the marital net worth upon divorce. This is almost always the case, with a few exceptions.
Marital net worth refers to all the assets and liabilities accumulated by either spouse during the marriage. According to the law of equitable distribution, each spouse should receive money, property, and debt equal to half the value of the total marital assets less total marital liabilities.
If a couple has a total of $5 million in marital assets and $2 million in marital liabilities, then each party should receive $1.5 million upon divorce.
(Marital assets – Marital Liabilities) / 2
$5,000,000 – $ 2,000,000 = $3,000,000
$3,000,000/ 2 = $ 1,500,000
Any assets received as a gift or inheritance by either spouse is not considered as part of the marital assets. The same applies for any property owned before the marriage. If either spouse had accumulated any liabilities before the marriage, or currently have liabilities that are not related to the marriage, then these will not be deducted from the marital assets. These assets and liabilities are termed as non-marital and are not considered in the equal division of the marital net worth during a divorce. Normally, each specific asset does not undergo equal divisions, as that is almost impossible to achieve. Instead, each party receives responsibility for specific assets and liabilities so that they each leave the marriage with equal marital net worth.
According to Florida Divorce Law, the judge can grant permanent or rehabilitative alimony to either spouse based on need and ability. Alimony refers to the financial support offered by one former spouse to the other after the settlement of their divorce.
Unlike in many jurisdictions where the law has some present formulas for calculating the amount of alimony, in Florida divorce court judges have the discretion to determine the exact duration and amount of alimony.
Factors Influencing Alimony Payments in Florida
Before giving orders for alimony payments, the judge needs to establish need and ability. The spouse that is to receive the alimony must be in need of financial support from their former spouse. And the former spouse must have the ability to pay in addition to financing their own realistic living expenses. Money offered in alimony is used to finance the recipient’s expenditures after maximizing their earning potential.
The most difficult issue in divorce litigation is establishing the amount and period of alimony. In most cases, the amount of alimony paid or received could be the difference between living comfortably or in poverty for either spouse.
Some of the most challenging issues about establishing alimony include:
- Determining the spouses’ wages to evaluate the amount they need or can pay in alimony
- Defining the living standards upon which the alimony is based
- Defining the amount of alimony to be paid
- Defining the duration of alimony payments
- Defining the terms of the alimony in relation to the time of termination or when changes can be applied
- Defining the consequences for stopping the alimony payments
Depending on the financial status of the spouse paying the alimony, the payment can be given in a single lump sum or on a monthly basis. It can even be a combination of both, for example, making a down payment and then paying the remaining amount in instalments.
Although Florida is a no-fault state, when there is proof of adultery, it can play a factor in deciding the amount and duration of alimony.
The judges consider various factors in deciding the terms of the alimony. These factors include:
- The span of the marriage
- The earning potential of each partner
- The living standard during marriage
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Monetary properties of each partner including assets and debts
- Child custody provisions and if the primary care partner can care for the children and simultaneously maintain a job
- If either partner helped the other advance their career or education in any way
- If either spouse needs time to acquire training or education to advance their employment opportunities
- All revenue sources for both partners
3. Child Issues
In Florida, the court prefers that the parents come up with a suitable and viable plan for the custody of the children. However, in the event that the partners are unable to make the decision, the court will intervene and decide for them.
According to the state law, Florida mainly considers the best interests of the children when issuing custody during divorce proceedings. This is done in conformity with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
In the best-case scenario, the court will make a decision that gives both parents an active role in the children’s lives. As such both parents will receive similar considerations when deciding the children’s primary residence. The child’s gender should not influence this decision in any way.
When determining child custody, the court may also consider other factors such as:
- The age and health of the children
- Their emotional attachment to each parent
- Their individual preferences
- Childcare and after-school care provisions
- Any social, religious, or school activities the children take part in
- Medical care
It is essential that the court determines any negative issues affecting the children. For example, if there are any cases of domestic violence in the home or either one of the parents have a substance abuse problem.
It is common for the court to give the custody obligation to one parent. This parent will be responsible not just for providing a home for the child, but also for making major decisions regarding the children’s welfare, for example, their education, religious affiliations, medical care, and other life-defining matters.
For common issues and decisions, both parents often share the responsibility. The bottom line is that they both consider what is in the best interests of their children.
Florida grants bifurcation to spouses as they work out their divorce settlement. Bifurcation means that each partner is considered single, but the divorce is yet to be finalized. During bifurcation, a spouse can restore their surname or maiden name if they had taken on their spouse’s name as their last name.
During the divorce process, the court will require that each partner accurately reveal their finances and assets to the other. This process is mandatory and requires that each spouse exercise utmost honesty for the sake of the equitable division of assets, child support, and alimony.
Each party must fill a form that discloses all their bank account information, title deeds, tax returns, salary information, debt information, and pension plan information or retirement account statements. They must also individually sign and file a Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit.
The spouses provide this data under the penalty of perjury, and as such any lies are accountable for criminal and civil penalties. The consequences incurred will depend on the extent of misinformation. Most times, the faulty partner ends up losing their assets to their spouse.
Once the court has all the information they need, they can start processing the divorce. It is wise to seek a good attorney to help with the divorce process.
ONLINE FLORIDA DIVORCE ASSISTANCE SERVICE
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