“There are no more intense or complicated cases than divorce. You need an experienced trial case lawyer working for you. We have 46 years combined trial experience and in excess of 500 trials. We will utilize our experience to protect your rights and to give you the best possible legal representation.”
Divorce is Traumatic: It does not matter whether you are exiting the death of the relationship or entering it. Your friends and family can lend emotional support, but your attorney must apply the following legal concepts to your factual situation so that you may resume your life under circumstances as favorable to you as possible.
Action for Dissolution: One spouse begins the proceedings by filing a petition for dissolution of the marriage. The other spouse answers and counter-petitions. These documents merely state one’s potential rights, not his or her only acceptable settlement.
Residency Requirement: Prior to filling the petition, one spouse must permanently reside in Florida for at least six months.
Separation: Although the judge forces the parties to separate only if spousal abuse occurs or the atmosphere is extremely detrimental to the children, either party may leave the home without being charged with “abandonment.” Separating does create practical and financial problems, however; therefore, do not move out without consulting an attorney unless you fear for your safety.
Grounds for Dissolution: Florida is a “No Fault” divorce state to the extent that you no longer need to prove adultery, mental cruelty, etc. to obtain a divorce. If one spouse believes the marriage cannot be saved, the judge will grant the divorce. The judge may order marriage counseling for three months, however, if the parties have minor children and one spouse believes reconciliation is possible.
Extramarital Relationships: Although Florida is “No Fault,” extramarital relationships can affect support awards, assets distribution, and custody. Be frank with your attorney so he or she can assess the effect of either spouse’s affairs. Furthermore, do not fuel the fire by dating during the proceedings.
Discovery: Each party must comply with the rules of Automatic Mandatory Financial Disclosure by submitting certain financial documents and signing a financial affidavit under oath which identifies all sources of income and expenses, assets, and liabilities. Usually, attorneys also depose the other party prior to the trial to avoid surprise.
Temporary Relief: If your spouse has physically abused you or the children, has the ability to and treatens to hide assets, or refuses to pay reasonable support, the judge may enter a temporary order designed to alleviate these problems pending final judgment. Both parties must testify at a hearing, however, and it is not always easy to obtain time on the judge’s calendar.
Shared Parental Responsibility: In Florida, parents share the rights and responsibilities related to their minor children. For instance, the judge will assign one parent the responsibility of providing the children’s primary residence based on a list of specific statutory factors. You should request a copy of the statue if you anticipate a dispute. Each parent must attend the Children and Divorce course before the judge will enter a final judgement.
Child Support: The Florida Legislature has enated child support guidelines which apply to all cases. The amount of child support paid to the primary residential parent is determined by a formula which takes into account each parent’s after-tax income and percentage share of the parties’ combined after-tax income. The judge has limited discretion to deviate from the guidelines. If parents want to assume responsibility for college expenses, they must enter into a written agreement. The judge cannot order divorced parents to do what it cannot order married parents to do (i.e. support a child over the age of 18.)
Non-Marital Assets: The judge will set aside to each party his or her assets and liabilities acquired prior to the marriage or during the marriage as inheritance, third-party gifts, etc., if the owner has not co-mingled the asset with marital assets. Even then, any appreciation in value during the marriage due to marital moneys or efforts is available for Equitable Distribution.
Marital Assets: Unless determined “non-marital, ” all assets and liabilities acquired or incurred during the marriage belong to both spouses regardless of whose name is on the title or on the bill.
Equitable Distribution: Even though Florida is not a community property state, the judge begins with the presumption that he will send each party away from the marriage with approximately equal net worth. To justify unequal Equitable Distibution, a spouse must demonstrate he or she made extraordinary contributions to the marital net worth or the other spouse substantially dissipated the marital net worth through his or her misconduct.
Permanent Alimony: A spouse who has lost the capacity for self-support during a long marriage may receive alimony until he or she remarries or the other spouse dies. The judge determines how much the wage earner can fairly pay under the circumstances.
Rehabilitative Alimony: A spouse whose earning ability has diminished during the marriage, but who has the potential for selfsupport, may receive support for a disignated, period of time in order to reestablish himself or herself in the work force.
Lump Sum Alimony: Lump sum alimony is a legal term which may or may not bear any relashionship to the traditional concepts of alimony. It is used to even up the distribution of assets and liabilities when one spouse received physical possession of more valuable assets than the other spouse received. It is also used to give one spouse a larger share of the assets if justified. Finally, it may take the place of monthly permanent or rehabilitative alimony payments and, thus, not lend itself to modification.
Attorney’s Fees and Costs: When the judge evenly divides the marital net worth and awards adequate support, leavng the spouses in relatively similar financial circumstances, each party assumes responsibility for his and her own attorney’s fees and costs; however, if one spouse still has superior fiancial ability due to, for instance, his or her non-marital assets or one party caused and excessive expenditure of fees or costs, the judge may order that spouse to contribute to the other spouse’s fees and costs
Final Judgement: Eventually, the judge will dissolve the marriage, assign rights and responsibilities related to the minor children, distribute the assets and liabilities, and award child and spousal support. If you and your spouse reach an agreement as to these issues either through negotiation or mediation, the judge will approve your agreement during a ten-minute non-contested hearing. If not, the judge will conduct a non-jury trial where each spouse testifies and submits documents to the judge according to the Rules of Evidence. The judge then makes a ruling which becomes the basis of a written final judgment.