A Divorce Primer for the State of Florida

Contemplating divorce is not a happy thought. It involves accepting that a union needs to be dissolved for what may be a variety of reasons, many of which are subjective, personal, and private. Having to publically acknowledge that “till death do us part” is not going to happen arouses emotions which can cloud judgment. Knowing the basics of divorce is essential in such situations. In Florida there are certain basic tenets of which one should be aware.

A childless marriage can be an “easy” marriage to end. No children means no custody issues, which in turn means that family court will not need to be brought into the equation. Spouses can file for a Dissolution of Marriage. You will be required to have lived in Florida for a minimum of six months prior to filing. Florida does not require grounds, per se, be listed in a divorce petition. The phrase “irreconcilable differences” will suffice for purposes of a petition for dissolution. This can be of great importance to the divorcing couples. Publically vetting personal issues can quickly turn things into an unnecessarily acrimonious battle.

If both parties are in agreement regarding the dissolution of the marriage the ensuing process can proceed relatively quickly. Said agreement involves submitting, in writing, that you both consent to dissolving the marriage and that your common assets have been equitably distributed privately. These agreements will allow a trial to be avoided. You should be aware that IF one spouse is not in agreement with regard to dissolving the marriage, a court can order marriage counseling for the parties before granting any petition, but this is unlikely.

IF children are part of the equation, a trial will be mandated to determine custody. Florida uses the phrase “timesharing schedules” instead of the term custody. Attorneys for both parties are charged with ascertaining the best interests of the child/children and creating a “schedule” which reflects this. IF the parties cannot reach an agreement, the Court will create a parenting plan intentionally suited to the child/children. DO your best to reach an agreement. Having a “third party”, i.e. the Court, making life decisions for your family is far from ideal. During family court hearings, decisions regarding residential issues, insurance(s), support etc. will be discussed. Prepare for it! These issues need to be decided before a divorce is granted.

Florida has equitable distribution laws. Property acquired during the course of a marriage is usually divided 50/50. An obvious exception to this would be if a pre-nuptial agreement is in place. Property, money, and any other assets owned PRIOR to the marriage may or may not be considered part of distributable divorce assets. Another exception of which you should be aware of is the court’s ability to cite a special circumstance which could negate equitable distribution. A prime example is the family home. The Court will probably allow the spouse with whom any minor children will live to remain in the family home and preclude any distributive actions.

Divorce is not an action to be taken lightly and, as always, you are encouraged to seek professional guidance to protect your rights and ensure fairness not subject to emotional bias.

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