Whether a couple walks down the aisle in a big church in Tampa, or exchanges their vows on a Tampa-area beach with a few friends and family in attendance, marriage represents a commitment. When a couple decides to divorce, there can be feelings of failure that the commitment wasn’t met.
The manner in which a divorce is approached can make the difference between emerging as a healthy, whole and emotionally stable person, or a wounded, bitter and depressed one. There are many decisions to be made during divorce, and how they are made can set a course for the next phase of life for each spouse and any children from the marriage.
One of the most emotional aspects of a divorce can be the impact on a child or children from the marriage. Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, decisions will eventually need to be made regarding child custody. Although the parents may determine a child custody arrangement, the court will make a judgment that it determines is in the child’s best interest.
For example, if one parent was a stay-at-home parent, the court may feel that switching to joint custody would be too disruptive. Conversely, if two parents both had careers and had been equally involved parents, the court may not feel that sole physical custody is the best arrangement.
There are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is where the child is living or staying. Legal custody is the ability to make important decisions regarding the child such as whether to have surgery, or what religion to practice.
Child support may be ordered paid, depending upon who has physical child custody and the net income of each parent. In general, a parent with higher income can be ordered to pay child support to the other parent, even in cases where the physical child custody is shared.
The state of Florida has developed a chart which states how much child support is needed for one child or more, depending upon the combined net income of the parents.
Child Custody Modifications
The child custody arrangements that are made at the time of the divorce may not stand the test of time. When situations change, a child custody modification may be needed. For example, if one parent’s job situation changes and he or she has to travel for work, or is required to work the overnight shift, either parent could request a change in the physical child custody of the child or children.
A common reason to request a child custody modification is the relocation request of a sole custody parent. A custodial parent cannot relocate unless it is court approved.
Every asset and every debt you and your spouse acquired during your marriage belongs to you both equally. When you divorce, the assets and debts will be divided equitably. Equitable is not the same as equal. In Florida, the standard the court will use is “fair and just.”
For example, if you and your spouse’s earnings are roughly equal, you should each get about half of the retirement assets, savings, furniture and other assets. One person could get the boat, and the other get the vacation property, for example.
If your incomes are not equal, the spouse with lesser income could get a higher percentage of the assets, or the income-earning spouse could get a higher percentage of the debt because he or she is more able to pay off the debt.
Other terms used for alimony are spousal maintenance or spousal support. Depending on the income earned by each spouse, alimony may or may not be awarded to the lesser-earning or nonincome-earning spouse.
Alimony may be temporary or permanent or both. The couple can decide on a fair amount in an uncontested divorce, or in a contested divorce, each spouse will either request or deny an amount. The court will make the final decision.
Factors which the court can consider when determining an alimony amount include:
- Contribution of one spouse to the other’s career (work to pay for medical school, for example)
- Education or training needed to produce income
- Hiding assets
- Past income contribution of each spouse
- The ability of each spouse to produce future income
- Wasting assets or reckless spending
Divorce And Bankruptcy
One of the downsides of divorce is that the debt that accumulated during your marriage belongs to both of you. Consider what could happen if your post-divorce financial situation becomes financially worse due to a job loss or other factor. For example, if you each assume $15,000 in credit card debt, and you pay yours off but your ex-spouse files for bankruptcy, the creditors may come after you, even though the divorce decree stated that those were your ex-spouse’s debts.
If there are significant debts, it is critical that you work with an attorney to protect your post-divorce financial situation.
Why Hire A Divorce Attorney
Most people who are divorced will tell you that the process is one of the most stressful life changes one can go through. Whether you are most concerned about your children, your finances or some other issue, a divorce attorney can provide you with the legal counsel you need in order to make smart decisions.When emotions run high, judgment can run low. A seasoned Tampa divorce attorney can help you make smart choices that will be able to stand the test of time.
How To Choose A Divorce Lawyer
The attorney who is right for you may not be the right one for someone else. It is important that you choose a divorce lawyer who understands your sensibilities and your goals.
Take the time to meet with your potential legal representative. Find an attorney who concentrates his or her legal practice on divorce and family law, and one who practices regularly in Tampa and Hillsborough County. Find one with whom you can communicate well so your wishes will be understood.