Untying the Knot: Understanding a LGBTQIA+ Divorce in Florida
By: Katie Kohn, Esq.
Breaking up is never easy, but understanding the process can make the journey smoother. If you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community and face the challenges of divorce, you are not alone. This post will guide you through the process of a LGBTQIA+ divorce in Florida, shedding light on the key steps involved and addressing specific considerations.
Despite the recent passage of several laws limiting the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, the laws in Florida that govern divorce are the same regardless of the sex or gender identity of the parties. Generally, the process for a LGBTQIA+ divorce in Florida is the same as for heterosexual couples.
Below is an overview of the requirements and steps involved in a Florida divorce:
- At least one spouse must be a resident of Florida for at least six months before filing for divorce.
- One spouse, referred to as the petitioner, files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” (“Petition”). In the Petition, the petitioner provides information and makes requests about the dissolution of the marriage, division of property and liabilities, payment of alimony, and the children of the parties.
- The petitioner is responsible for serving the other spouse, known as the respondent, with a copy of the Petition and other required documents. Service is usually done through a process server or sheriff’s deputy.
- Once the respondent is served, the respondent has 20 days to file a response to the Petition. The respondent must agree or disagree with the terms presented in the Petition, and the respondent can also submit their own requests in a “Counterpetition for Dissolution of Marriage.”
- Each spouse must then complete financial disclosures, which includes completing a Financial Affidavit outlining income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, and providing documentation of income, assets, and liabilities through mandatory disclosure. Though the financial disclosures are required, in some circumstances they can be waived.
- After completing financial disclosures, the parties will try to come to an agreement on the issues in the divorce. Generally, mediation is used to facilitate a resolution. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, the mediator, assists the parties in negotiating a settlement agreement that is acceptable to both sides.
- If the parties are unable to resolve any aspect of the divorce, then the case will be set for a trial, where each side presents their positions and evidence to a judge and the judge decides the outcome of the unresolved issues.
- Once all issues are resolved through negotiation, mediation, or court decisions, a final judgment of dissolution of marriage is issued. This judgment legally ends the marriage and includes provisions for the division of assets and liabilities, the timesharing and decision-making arrangements for the children, child support, and alimony, if applicable.
Understanding Unique Aspects of a LGBTQIA+ Divorce
When it comes to LGBTQIA+ divorce in Florida, there are several legal issues specific to this community. Here are a few examples:
- Parental Rights. LGBTQIA+ couples may face unique challenges regarding parental rights in divorce cases. For example, if one partner is a biological or adoptive parent while the other is not, the non-legal parent may need to establish legal parental rights or secure visitation or custody rights. This can involve legal processes such as adoption, second-parent adoption, or establishing de facto parental status.
- Property Division. Dividing assets and property in a divorce can be complicated, and it may be particularly challenging for LGBTQIA+ couples whose relationship existed before same-sex marriage was legally recognized. If a couple acquired assets or property before or during their marriage, it’s important to understand Florida’s laws on property division apply and whether any specific considerations arise in LGBTQIA+ divorces.
- Spousal Support. Determining spousal support, also known as alimony, can be another legal issue. The length of the marriage, financial resources, and contributions of each spouse are factors that may be taken into account. In LGBTQIA+ divorces, there may be additional complexities to consider, such as income disparities and the potential for discrimination or bias during the process.
- Discrimination and Bias. Discrimination, bias, misinformation, and ignorance surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community can influence legal proceedings, including divorce cases. It is crucial to have a thorough understanding of your rights and collaborate with a knowledgeable attorney who comprehends the distinct obstacles that LGBTQIA+ individuals may encounter. This ensures that you receive equitable treatment throughout the entire process.
Untying the knot may seem daunting, but with knowledge and support, you can navigate the complexities of a LGBTQIA+ divorce. By understanding the process, meeting the requirements, and seeking appropriate legal counsel, you can embrace your new chapter with strength and resilience. Those needing assistance with divorce and other family law issues may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.