In Florida we refer to divorce as dissolution of marriage, which is addressed primarily by Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes. Either party may ask for the marriage to be dissolved based upon the bonds of marriage being irretrievably broken, we are a “no-fault” divorce state, and there is only a 30 day waiting period (which can even be waived). This is not to say that divorce is easy; based on our legal experience we realize this may be the most difficult period in your life. It is even more difficult to be objective about the lasting decisions you must make. There are legal ramifications that must be addressed when parties go their separate ways don’t make the mistake of representing yourself.
There are five main issues: Parental Responsibility, Equitable Distribution, Alimony, Child Support, and Everything Else. Most cases are resolved, at least in part, by agreement, drafting legal documents is a task best left to an experienced professional.
Florida Courts no longer use the terms “custody” and “visitation,” but the Courts still make determinations regarding decision-making authority and time-sharing. What most people think of as custody/visitation is the division of time with the children between the parents according to a parenting plan.
Child support is the most predictable issue because the Florida Statutes provide a formula for calculation. Usually, we can estimate child support with basic information from both parties. Experience tells us that many factors come into play that can effect the child support numbers, providing an unclear result.
Parents are legally bound to support their children; failure to pay child support can lead to revocation of your drivers license or jail.
Under Florida law, when an unmarried couple have a child the biological father=s legal rights must be established through a paternity action. In many ways it is like a divorce action, but with fewer issues. Paternity cases often involve the Department of Revenue, which can make a case more complex.
The Florida Statutes provide bright line distinctions regarding the length of marriage in correlation to the presumption of alimony. There are also several other important factors to consider when making a determination regarding alimony, namely, need and ability to pay. Additionally, actions you take after the marriage is dissolved may affect your case.
Division of Assets/Debts
Parties often do not realize their assets and debts are joint, at least for the purpose of the family courts. Regardless of whose name an asset of debt is held in it is usually considered marital if acquired or accrued during the marriage, with certain exceptions. If the parties own a home or business your case will be more complex especially if your home is in foreclosure. It is usually helpful to bring documentation of your assets and debts to be reviewed during the initial consultation.
Domestic violence injunctions require swift legal action because they are decided in a very short time frame and can have far-reaching repercussions, especially when coupled with a divorce or paternity case. The rules of evidence still apply, and time is of the essence to subpoena witnesses and necessary evidence. Respondents are often in the position to lose access to their homes and contact with their children, there can also be criminal repercussions.
Family law is a broad term which encompasses more than just divorce and paternity cases. The rules are very different when dealing with parties other than the biological parents, such as relative custody. Our practice includes these “other” family law cases.