To many people, marriages are supposed to last a lifetime. Very little thought is spent on the possibility of a divorce. The longer a couple is married, the more assets there are to divide, often making the divorce process more complicated.
In Florida, divorce is done under no-fault guidelines. This essentially means that couples are not required to prove the fault of a spouse for the demise of a partnership. Once a marriage is over, important decisions need to be made regarding the children and the future. It’s wise to know your rights and responsibilities when filing for divorce.
The responsibilities of parenting don’t change when a marriage ends. Perhaps the family structure is altered and children live in two households, but kids most often benefit from having both parents in their lives. The court requires parents to comply with a plan outlining the intended custody arrangements, visitation and schedules that will affect the children.
Parents can keep more control over the outcome of important child-related issues if they construct a parenting plan in which they can agree. If spouses do not agree, the court will make the choices based on what is right for the children.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, like the rest of the state, custody is shared unless there is a reason to deny one spouse custodial rights. In situations that involve criminal behavior, for instance, the court would likely deny custody because this behavior is not in the best interests of the children. The two types of custody are:
- Physical custody involves the ability to make choices in all aspects of caregiving and includes overnight stays.
- Legal custody gives parents the right to be a decision maker in important areas that include a child’s religion, medical care and education.
In some cases, a judge might require a family to seek child mediation services to resolve the issues.
The court feels that children should benefit from the income of both parents. A basic formula will calculate the amount of financial contribution that should be made by parents. Each spouse is responsible for a certain percentage of support based on the net income of each parent and the number of children in the household.
The state of Florida allows for deductions that will also help determine child support payments. Some of the monthly expenses that are considered are:
- Union dues owed
- Previous spousal support
- Mandatory retirement dues
- Health insurance costs (excluding coverage for children)
- Federal insurance contributions
In equitable property division states like Florida, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are divided between both parties. The division is done fairly, yet this doesn’t mean it disperses items in two equal halves. The court considers the financial circumstances of each spouse and the difficulty of dividing certain assets. For a family business, for instance, the court may leave this asset intact and assign value of something else to the spouse not getting the business.
Division Of Property
Property is considered either marital or separate in Florida. An item defined as separate property, such as an inheritance or a birthday gift, is not divided upon the dissolution of marriage. Another example of protected property (not divisible between both spouses), is an item protected under a prenuptial agreement. Separate property that has become commingled is often designated as marital property and dispersed.
The assets and debts commonly allocated include:
- Retirement accounts
- Real estate
- Automobiles, boats and planes
- Collectible items
- Household items
- Bank accounts, stocks, bonds and pensions
- Credit card debt
In Florida, couples can simply state the marriage is irretrievably broken with no hope for repair. The methods for ending a Fort Lauderdale marriage include dissolution of marriage, a simple dissolution of marriage and an annulment.
A simple dissolution of marriage is a streamlined filing option for those that meet certain requirements. Couples without children (who are not expecting) and who meet a six-month residency requirement can proceed with this route to end a marriage. In addition, spouses must agree on the terms of the simple dissolution while making no claim to alimony
The court defines a marriage that has been annulled as “void” or “invalid.” Certain grounds for an annulment need to exist, such as:
- A person was under the age of 18 when he or she married.
- A person was mentally incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol.
- One spouse was already legally married at the time of the marriage.
- A person was forced into marriage.
- The people married are close blood relatives.
- A person committed fraud in entering into the marriage.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Florida recognizes the value of alternative dispute resolution in resolving issues. There are several ADR methods that can be useful toward establishing agreement between couples ending a marriage. These include:
- Mediation. Perhaps the most informal of the three methods, spouses meet with a neutral third party to communicate in a productive manner to resolve issues.
- Arbitration. A neutral third party, often a judge, will hear both sides and make a decision on contested issues. The outcome can be either binding (with legal standing) or non-binding (a recommendation).
- Collaborative Divorce. Each spouse retains an attorney and all parties agree to work together to come to an agreement. The goal is to avoid a trial. If the collaborative divorce process doesn’t produce an agreement, spouses will need to hire new lawyers to proceed to the courtroom.
The process of divorce can be very emotional. Hiring a lawyer is a wise decision that can enable you to have your interests protected. It can also be reassuring to have legal information you can trust while going through a divorce proceeding. The decisions made while ending a marriage can impact your future. The attorney you choose should have an interest in accomplishing your goals and helping you execute your desired outcomes. Look for an attorney with a concentration in family law, specifically divorce.
To begin the divorce process or learn more about the legal steps, fill out the free divorce case review form to schedule a consultation speak with a divorce attorney in Fort Lauderdale.