The Basics of Divorce in Florida
Similar to the changes that happen as seasons shift from one to another, everyone has transitions in their lives that dramatically change the landscape of what is normal. One event that particularly transforms a person’s world is divorce. Divorce is a big step, and one few take quickly or lightly, but sometimes staying married is just not possible or right. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington finds that divorce filings spike twice a year – in March and August. Researchers attributed this increase to the letdown couples feel after the winter and summer holidays. In addition to divorce filings in Washington, the researchers also looked at divorce patterns in Florida, and found the same type of pattern. Regardless of the timing or the final event that spurs taking action on this issue, it is important to understand the basic components of a divorce case. This information will help those seeking divorce grasp what issues they need to consider and how the law can affect the outcome. Thus, an overview of the divorce process will follow below.
In order to get a divorce in Florida, at least one party must qualify as a resident of the state. Residency is established once a person lives in the state for six months with the intent to make it his or her principal place of abode. Residency is needed to give a court the authority to grant a divorce, so it is an essential aspect of any divorce proceeding. Since only one spouse is required to be a resident, filing for divorce against a party that lives elsewhere is permissible. The divorce petition itself is filed in the county in which one or both spouses live.
Florida, like most states in this country, has “No Fault” divorce, which means it is not necessary for a spouse to prove the other was at fault for the demise of the marriage. Instead, all a person must do is claim the marriage is irretrievably broken. Typically, the court will not delve into the specifics that led to the breakdown of the marriage, unless this information would aid the judge in making decisions related to alimony, property distribution, or parenting plans.
There is an additional basis for divorce based on the mental incapacity of one spouse, but it is rarely used since it requires the incapacity to be declared by a court, and last for at least three years prior to filing a divorce petition.
The purpose of divorce is to sever the rights and obligations individuals receive under the law when they get married, and the amount of time it takes to complete this process depends on the complexity of the case and how busy the assigned judge is. If the couple forms an agreement on all issues before the case is filed, it may take a matter of months, but if there are contested issues or complex circumstances related to children, the timeline is likely to be much longer. Regardless of the specifics, Florida law requires at least a 20-day window between when the divorce petition is filed and when a court can grant it.
Any divorce case involving children requires the court and/or the couple to figure out custody and visitation arrangements, as well as child support. Parenting plans determine which parent shall have responsibility for the child and include a time-sharing schedule that lays out how much time the child spends with each parent. Florida law starts from the premise that a child should have frequent and continuing contact with each parent, and joint custody is the norm. But, a court will deviate from this standard if it is in the best interest of the child. Each parent is required to provide financial support for their child, and Florida uses a formula to determine how much each parent must contribute based on his/her monthly income.
The starting point for the division of property in divorce is that all assets and liabilities should be divided equitably, which typically means equally, but the judge can stray from this standard if fairness requires it. Only marital property is subject to division to divorce, and the judge uses an extensive list of factors to determine what is just.
Talk to a Divorce Attorney
Filing for divorce can appear deceptively easy if you rely on the pre-printed forms available online and in stores. These forms do not adequately tell you about all the rights and obligations that come into play during divorce, but an experienced divorce lawyer can. The Fort Lauderdale law office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. has attorneys with years of experience in this area who can help you transition to the next phase in life. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.