Divorce may be an everyday occurrence, but it is never easy. It is a complicated and emotionally stressful legal proceeding. If you are considering a divorce, it helps to understand both the process and the issues you may face.
Requirements of a Florida divorce
Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes deals with the dissolution of marriage. It provides that to file for divorce in Florida, at least one of you must reside for 6 months in the state before filing the petition. The case is filed with the circuit court in the county where you and your spouse resided, or in either party’s county of residence.
In Florida, there are two grounds for dissolution of marriage:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken; or
- Mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three years.
If you and your spouse both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, you can proceed to end the marriage. If, however, one of you claims that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, or you have a child, the court may order counseling for up to three months.
How to Begin the Process of Divorce for Florida Residents
In Florida, there are two ways of filing for a divorce. The traditional and most common way is known as a “Regular Dissolution of Marriage.” The second way is known as the “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.”
In a regular dissolution of marriage, the process begins when you or your spouse files a petition with the court. The other spouse will be served with the paperwork and has 20 days to respond. The other spouse may also file a counter-petition and raise additional issues relating to the divorce.
The court provides a streamlined procedure, called Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, provided all of the required conditions are met. The conditions include requirements that both spouses must agree that the marriage cannot be saved; there are no minor or dependent children of the marriage; the wife is not pregnant; the spouses have agreed on a division of property and debt; and neither spouse seeks alimony. It is important to understand that if you choose the simplified dissolution of marriage procedure, you may be giving up some legal rights you would have had under the regular divorce procedure.
The assets and debts you acquired during the marriage are called the marital assets. You and your spouse each keep your non-marital assets. Assets you had before you married may be considered non-marital assets provided they were kept separate from the marital assets. Generally, a judge will divide marital assets equally unless there is some basis for dividing them differently. Factors the judge may consider include economic circumstances and contributions of both spouses. Contributions include caring for children and the home, as well as income.
Custody of the minor children is usually the most emotional and difficult issue in a divorce. Unless you and your spouse are in agreement on child custody, the court will decide, using the standard of the “best interests” of the child. The court may consider factors such as the moral fitness of the parents, ability to provide a stable home, and sometimes the preference of the child. In many cases, parents share custody. Sometimes the court will divide responsibilities, such as education or medical care, between the parents.
Both parents are obligated to support their minor children financially. To determine support, the parents’ net incomes are compared to the Guidelines Table contained in Florida chapter 61. The court also takes into consideration factors such as the health of the child and employment-related daycare costs.
In Florida, the court may order alimony if it is “well-founded.” The court may consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the age and health of both spouses, and the couple’s standard of living during the marriage.
Preparing for divorce
To make a fair division of assets, the court will need a great deal of financial information. You should gather and copy your mortgage statements, bank statements, tax statements and any other important financial records. If you maintain records of expenses, those are useful in making support determinations. It is also a good idea to make an inventory of valuable or important household possessions. Having this information at hand will help the process move along quickly and smoothly.
Decisions must be made about all of the issues, either by agreement between the spouses or by the court. Once this is done, a judgment of divorce will be entered with the court.
Contact Ronald M. Zakarin Today in Boca Raton, Florida
When facing divorce, you may feel distressed and powerless. Therefore, you need to consult an experienced attorney who can explain each step of the process and help you achieve the best results. For more information contact us today.