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Divorce Law

  • How much does it cost to get divorced?

    The cost of a divorce can vary based on many factors. Contested divorces are more expensive than divorces that are uncontested. A divorce attorney is not somewhere you should look to save money in your budget—a good divorce attorney can help you get a more beneficial resolution than you would get on your own.
  • How long does it take to get divorced in Florida?

    Florida law provides that, absent a showing that injustice would result, no final judgment of dissolution of marriage may be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition. (Fla. Stat. 61.19) This does not mean getting divorced takes only 20 days; it means that it will take at least 20 days. The length of time it takes depends on the cooperativeness of both parties, the responsiveness of both clients to their attorneys, how long the mediation process lasts (if necessary), how quickly a date can be set with the court, and many other factors outside the attorney’s control.
  • Does it matter who files first?

    Only one party should file an initial petition; that party is known as the Petitioner and the other party is the Respondent. The Respondent gets to respond and tell their “side of the story” in their Answer and possibly a Counterpetition. The Petitioner must pay filing fees to initiate the action, but the parties will usually make arrangements to split this cost either at the time of filing or in the settlement agreement. There is no particular strategic advantage to being the Petitioner in a divorce case.
  • Do we have to get divorced in the state we got married in?

    The state you got married in is irrelevant for jurisdictional purposes. Many states, including Florida, have residency requirements which grant jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings to a state you have been living in the requisite period of time.
  • How long is Florida’s residency requirement?

    To obtain a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must reside 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition. (Fla. Stat. 61.021)
  • Why do I need a lawyer?

    Divorces, even amicable ones, can be very emotional. It is helpful to have a neutral third party with the experience to negotiate the details and navigate the legal landscape. They can advocate for your best interests, anticipate situations they can prepare for and get you the best possible settlement. You don’t want to make a mistake you will pay for the rest of your life.
  • Can we use the same lawyer?

    You can use the same attorney, but be aware that a collaborative attorney does not really represent either party. This is not a problem when the parties agree. Under Florida’s ethical rules for lawyers, they are not to give either party legal advice and should advise each party to retain their own attorney if a disagreement between the parties should arise.
  • What does it mean that Florida is a no-fault divorce state?

    For most of legal history, the law set out certain “grounds” that allowed a party to seek a divorce such as adultery, abuse, etc. A party seeking divorce had to allege and establish legally sufficient grounds for divorce, such as adultery or abuse. No-fault divorce means that it’s not necessary to prove any fault on the part of the other spouse; the parties only need to claim and establish that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” (Fla. Stat. 61.052)
  • Can I still get a divorce when I can’t find them?

    If the other party cannot be located, a divorce can still be had, but service of process is slightly different. If the spouse cannot be located, service of process by publication is allowed in divorce cases (Fla. Stat. 49.021)
  • What if we agree?

    Florida has a collaborative law process that can be used for divorces which can simplify things should the parties agree. (Fla. Stat. 61.57)

Alimony / Spousal Support

  • We both waived alimony in our prenup, so I’m off the hook for alimony, right?

    If you have a well-drafted prenuptial agreement, the parties can waive the right to receive alimony.
  • Is alimony automatic?

    No. The court considers certain factors when granting an award of alimony, including whether a party has a need for alimony or maintenance and the other party has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance. (Fla. Stat. 61.08)
  • I get more because they cheated, right?

    It is a common misconception that wrongdoing by the other party will result in the wronged party “getting everything.” This is not the reality. A party’s “fault” can be considered as a factor in awarding alimony, but does not usually change the equitable distribution framework. (Fla. Stat. 61.075)
  • How can I get back on my feet as the homemaker in the relationship?

    There are several types of alimony designed to help people in this situation. Among the types of alimony that can be helpful to the former homemaker are 1) rehabilitative, which is designed to help a former spouse for a limited time while they participate in job training/educational programs to help them in securing a job; 2) Bridge-the-gap alimony, which has as its intended purpose helping spouses make the transition from married to single; and 3) permanent periodic, which is for those who are found by the court to be permanently unable to provide the necessities of life as established during the course of the marriage. (Fla. Stat. 61.08)
  • Only women can get alimony, right?

    No, the gender of each party is irrelevant.  Women can be ordered to pay their former spouse alimony.
  • What can I do if I can’t afford my alimony/spousal support payments?

    If there is a significant change in your circumstances since you were ordered to pay alimony that causes you to not be able to afford it, you can seek a modification of the order based on your new circumstances.  (Fla. Stat. 61.14)
  • Can I stop making my alimony payments because my ex is living with a significant other?

    The spouse who is receiving alimony payments—the “obligee”—residing with someone and establishing a “supportive relationship,” can be a “changed circumstance” that would justify a modification of the award, allowing alimony can be reduced or terminated. (Fla. Stat. 61.14)

Child Support

  • How much child support will I have to pay?

    Florida law establishes child support guidelines. These guidelines lay out, based on the income of the parent and the number of children, how much child support is required. This number is used to calculate how much the child support payments will be. The judge has discretion to vary from these guidelines, but a variation of more than 5 percent higher or lower will require the judge to make a written finding explaining why they chose to vary so much from the guidelines. (Fla. Stat. 61.30)
  • What happens if I don’t pay? What can they really do about it?

    Your wages can be garnished. (Fla. Stat. 61.12) Your driver license and/or motor vehicle registration can be suspended. (Fla. Stat. 61.13016) If you are a doctor, lawyer, or any other profession that requires a professional license, it can be suspended or denied to you. (Fla. Stat. 61.13015) A child support order is a court order and there can be consequences for failing to follow a court order. If the court finds your refusal to pay was willful, you can be put in jail for contempt.
  • What can I do if I can’t afford my child support payments?

    Child support orders, just like alimony, can be modified if there are changed circumstances.  (Fla. Stat. 61.14)
  • What can I do about a man denying the child is his to avoid paying child support?

    There are procedures for the courts to establish paternity of children born out of wedlock.  (Fla. Stat. 742.10)  If an alleged father refuses to acknowledge parental responsibility, paternity can be established through scientific testing pursuant to a court order.  (Fla. Stat. 742.12)
  • Can I keep them from the children if they’re behind in their child support payments?

    No. A parent’s time-sharing rights are not contingent on being current in their child support obligations. Preventing the delinquent parent from seeing the children could result in legal trouble for violating the time-sharing agreement.
  • What should I do if they don’t pay? How do I get the money they owe?

    There are procedures to have their wages garnished and their driver license or motor vehicle registration suspended.
  • How can I get child support if we were never married?

    If paternity is acknowledged, or if paternity is established by court order, a child support order can be issued.  Marriage is not a requirement for a child support order.  (Fla. Stat. 742.011)

Time-sharing / Parental Responsibility

  • What about the kids?

    In any case involving children, rest assured that the best interests of the children are a primary consideration of the court.  The court may even assign a guardian ad litem to advocate for the best interests of the children if they believe it to be necessary.
  • How can I get time-sharing with the children if I was never married to the other parent?

    Once paternity is acknowledged or established by court order, the father has full parental rights and responsibilities. This includes the obligation of child support and the right to time-sharing.
  • Don’t I automatically get majority time-sharing because I’m their Mother?

    There is no presumption in favor of Mothers under Florida law. The court will consider the statutory factors and decide what is best for the child.
  • Don’t I automatically get majority time-sharing because I’m their Mother?

    There is no presumption in favor of Mothers under Florida law. The court will consider the statutory factors and decide what is best for the child.
  • Can I/Should I stop making my child support payments because my ex won’t let me see the kids?

    No. Your obligation to pay child support is not based on whether your ex-permits visitation as often as they should. Your ex may be in violation of the time-sharing order by refusing to let you see the kids and you can pursue this through the courts and even seek make-up time with your children. Ceasing child support payments would put you in violation of the child support order and may result in penalties against you including driver license or motor vehicle registration suspension or possibly jail.
  • Do I have to let my ex’s no-good significant other be around my kids?

    You may seek an injunction against a live-in significant other of your ex if there is evidence of domestic violence against your children. (Fla. Stat. 741.28)  If you simply do not like your ex’s choice in a new significant other, the best course of action may be to ask your ex if they would consider limiting contact between the significant other and your children for the time being.
  • We fight at every pick-up/drop-off. What can I do?

    Exchanging the children at a public, neutral location may help if you are not already doing that.  You may even select a local police station as your exchange point if things tend to escalate towards violence.
  • What can I do about my ex making important decisions without consulting me?

    Decision-making about the education, health, and welfare of a child is referred to as “parental responsibility.” A court shall order that parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. (Fla. Stat. 61.13) Trying to cooperate with your ex is usually the best, easiest, and least expensive option. If parental responsibility is shared in your court order and your ex-continues to refuse to consult you on big decisions, you may be able to move the court to enforce the order and require your ex to obey the court order, with the threat of possible penalties for this and any future violations.
  • What if I want to move with the children?

    In the absence of consent from the other parent, a parent who intends to relocate with the children more than 50 miles from their current residence must file a petition with the court for permission. (Fla. Stat. 61.13001)

Property Distribution

  • How will our property be divided?

    Florida is an “equitable distribution” state. The court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution. (Fla. Stat. 61.075)
  • Do I get to keep everything because I was the only one working during the marriage and paid for it all?

    While you worked outside the home during the marriage, your spouse’s contribution to the relationship was in the form of child rearing and homemaking, no doubt eschewing personal, educational and career goals to do so. These contributions are no less valid under the law and will be considered by the court. This will usually not justify unequal distribution. (Fla. Stat. 61.075)
  • Will I get the house?

    The court may find it to be in the best interests of the child to stay in the marital home so as not to uproot the child from what they have known. In that case, the primary custodial parent would remain in the house. (Fla. Stat. 61.075)
  • What can we do if we both want to keep our beloved cat, Fluffy?

    There are no statutory guidelines like there are with children, but you and your ex can come to any arrangement you would like about pets. It is not unheard of for parties to want to treat the animal like a child, coming to agreements for time-sharing and payments for the support of the pet.
  • Do I have to give the ring back? They paid for it, after all.

    Engagement rings are considered a gift was given in contemplation of marriage. Legally, once the wedding has taken place, the ring is a gift and you may keep it if you like.
  • Do I have to give the ring back? They paid for it, after all.

    Engagement rings are considered a gift was given in contemplation of marriage. Legally, once the wedding has taken place, the ring is a gift and you may keep it if you like.
  • What about the expensive gift I got them for their birthday last year? Don’t they have to give that back since I bought it?

    Interspousal gifts during the marriage are considered marital property subject to equitable (equal) distribution.
  • Do I get to keep all the cars because they’re all in my name?

    Unless the cars are nonmarital property (acquired by you before the marriage) Florida’s equitable distribution means that property is generally distributed equally, regardless of to whom the property is registered.
  • Do I have to pay all the credit cards on my own because they’re all in my name?

    Under Florida’s equitable distribution, assets, as well as liabilities incurred during the marriage, should be distributed equally. (Fla. Stat. 61.075)
  • What about my inheritance from Great Aunt Mildred last year?

    This depends on whether the inheritance was specifically gifted to you or if it was gifted to you and your spouse together.
  • What if I cosigned a loan for them?

    This is a marital liability and, absent agreement to the contrary will be distributed equitably. You and your lawyer should do everything you can to come to an agreement with your ex that they will pay this debt. Unfortunately, this does not generally remove you from liability as a consignor—should your ex-fail to pay, your credit can be impacted and the creditor can sue you as well.
  • What about my small business?

    This depends on how your business is set up, how much interest your spouse has in it, and whether you and your spouse want to/believe you will be able to operate the business together in the future.
  • What about my small business?

    This depends on how your business is set up, how much interest your spouse has in it, and whether you and your spouse want to/believe you will be able to operate the business together in the future.

Supervised Visitation / Domestic Violence

  • How can I protect myself and my children from a violent ex?

    You can seek an injunction and/or a court order allowing your ex-supervised visitation only.
  • My kids told me my ex’s new significant other hit them/abused them in some way. What can I do?

    Florida’s domestic violence statute includes household members, regardless of blood relation. You may seek an injunction for domestic violence against a live-in significant other of your ex. (Fla. Stat. 741.28)

Miscellaneous

  • Is the agreement we make for alimony, child support and time-sharing set in stone?

    Alimony and child support orders can be modified if there is a significant and unanticipated change in your circumstances since the order was made.
  • Can I take my former name back?

    Yes, the court can order your name restored to your previous name.
  • Aren’t we common law married because we lived together for a long time?

    This is a common misconception with the most often-cited time period being 7 years. This used to a be a rule but Florida no longer recognizes common law marriages entered into after January 1, 1968, absent certain specific circumstances. (Fla. Stat. 741.211)
  • What’s the difference between a divorce and an annulment?

    A divorce is the dissolution of a valid, legally binding marriage.
    An annulment, on the other hand, can only be granted under certain circumstances (illegality, duress, the incapacity of one or both of the parties, bigamy, etc.) and declares that the marriage was invalid and never should have taken place. Legally, it is as if the marriage never happened.
  • What’s the difference between divorce and legal separation?

    Divorce is the dissolution of a valid, legally binding marriage.
    Legal separation is an arrangement by which a married couple lives apart but stay married legally. The court can enter an order deciding many of the same issues as they would in a divorce—spousal maintenance and child support payments, the division of property, time-sharing, etc. without dissolving the marriage. This can be helpful for couples who want to live apart and perhaps attempt reconciliation after a trial period. There is no formal statutory framework for legal separation in Florida as there is in some other states, but there are some options closely mimic it, which you should discuss with your attorney.

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