10 Things Every Floridian Needs to Know About Divorce
By: Iman Zekri, Esq.
Family law differs from state to state. For instance, laws governing child custody, alimony, and division of property vary based on the state in which your divorce case is pending. While certain aspects of Florida’s family laws are unique, a number of Florida’s legal rules are widely accepted by other states. This article discusses what you need to know about obtaining a divorce in the Sunshine State. Specifically, this article addresses ten (10) fundamental legal concepts that will have an impact on the outcome of your Florida divorce case:
- Residency Requirement. In order to file for divorce in Florida, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the State of Florida for at least six (6) months before filing.
- No-Fault Divorce. Florida is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that blaming the other spouse for adultery and the resulting breakdown of the marriage will not be recognized in court. All that is required is for one spouse to say the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” which means the marriage is beyond repair.
- No Jury Trials. In Florida, all family law trials are “bench trials.” A bench trial means the case is heard by a judge only. Accordingly, if your divorce case does not settle and you proceed to a trial, the outcome of your case will be decided by a judge, not a jury.
- Alimony. Alimony is an extension of the duty of spouses to financially support each other before and after marriage. In Florida, alimony may be awarded if one spouse has a financial need for alimony and the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony. Florida courts consider several factors in making an alimony determination, including the duration of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and the age and physical condition of both spouses.
- Length of a Marriage. The length of your marriage will be considered by the court for purposes of determining alimony. If you are married for less than seven (7) years, your marriage is considered a short-term marriage. If you are married for longer than seven (7) years but less than 17 years, your marriage is a moderate-term marriage. Finally, if you are married for 17 years or longer, your marriage is classified as a long-term marriage. Notably, there is a presumption in favor of awarding permanent alimony following a long-term marriage.
- Property Division. Florida is an “equitable distribution” state. In dividing property in a divorce, Florida courts deem all assets and debts amassed during the marriage to be “marital” assets and liabilities. In Florida, marital assets and liabilities will be divided equally unless there is a justification for an unequal division.
- Date of Filing. The date of filing the divorce paperwork is important because it serves as the cut-off date for determining the “marital” assets and liabilities. The cut-off date for determining which property and debts will be classified as “marital” is generally the date of the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage.
- Attorney’s Fees. In Florida, a court may attempt to level the playing field by ordering one party to pay attorney’s fees to the other party in a divorce. In deciding whether to make an award of attorney’s fees, the court will consider the financial resources available to both parties.
- Best Interests of the Child. In making decisions relating to a minor child, Florida courts must consider the “best interests of the child.” If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, the judge will decide on parental responsibility and time-sharing based on what is in the child’s best interests. As a general matter, unless it would be detrimental to the child, the court will order shared parental responsibility.
- Child Support. Child support is calculated by using a formula called the “child support guidelines.” In determining child support, Florida courts take into account both parents’ income as well as the healthcare costs for the minor child.
Divorce can be a stressful and complicated process. Those needing assistance in navigating the Florida divorce process or having other questions about family law issues may contact me directly at (239) 344-1119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.