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Divorce Laws in Florida – Dissolving a Marriage in The Sunshine State

Divorce in Florida is termed a Dissolution of Marriage and may be filed with the circuit court where the petitioner (the spouse who is filing for divorce) lives. To file for a dissolution in Florida, either spouse needs to have lived in the state for at least six months prior to the fling.

Florida is a ‘no-fault’ only state, which means that any allegations of spousal wrong-doing are not taken into account when pronouncing a divorce. Instead, the only grounds that are considered when dissolving a marriage are the complete and irrevocable breakdown of the marriage, or mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was deemed incapacitated for the preceding three years.

When dissolution is sought because the marriage is irrevocably broken and there is a minor child of the marriage, or the Respondent contests the breakdown of the marriage in his or her Answer, the court may take any of the following actions:

  • Order either or both parties to seek advice from a qualified marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, priest, rabbi or other person deemed qualified by the court and acceptable to the party ordered to seek counseling.
  • Continue the proceeding for a period not exceeding three months to allow the parties a chance to reconcile
  • Take any other actions deemed in the best interest of the parties and minor children of the marriage.

Property division

Florida is an equitable division state and requires that marital assets and debts be shared in a fair and equal manner. Child-support, time-sharing and alimony awards may be taken into account when the court deliberates on how to divide the property and debts between the two parties. As with all cases where finances are involved, it is always recommended to retain the services of qualified divorce lawyers, such as Steger Law Attorneys.

The following factors will be considered when deliberating the division of property:

  • The economic circumstances of the parties.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • Whether either party gave up educational or occupational opportunities in favor of the other party.
  • Whether one spouse contributed financially or otherwise to the other’s educational or occupational opportunities.
  • What each party contributed to the couples assets and liabilities.
  • Who should retain ownership of the marital home and custody of the dependent children and whether their financial situation after the dissolution of the marriage will allow them to maintain the current standard of living.
  • Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

Alimony

Alimony may be granted to either party and is based on the requesting spouse’s need and the ability of the other spouse to pay. In Florida, there are four categories of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony. The court may order periodic payments, lump-sum payments, or both.

Marriages are categorized as short-term; moderate-term, or long-term. A short-term marriage is one which has lasted less than seven years. A moderate-term marriage has a duration of more than seven years, but less than 17 years. And a long-term marriage is one which has lasted for 17 years or longer.

Bridge-the-gap alimony is paid to help a spouse transition from being married to being single again by providing support for legitimate short-term needs. This type of award is paid for a maximum of two years only.

Rehabilitative alimony is paid to help a spouse gain self-sufficiency by either redeveloping work skills or acquiring new skills to be able to obtain gainful employment and is paid until such time that the defined plan is completed, or if the receiving party fails to comply with the plan.

Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is not appropriate. Its purpose is to provide the receiving party with financial help for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration. The alimony period may not exceed the length of the marriage.

Permanent alimony may be awarded to a spouse who lacks the financial ability to meet his/her needs and the necessities of life as they were established during the marriage. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a long duration marriage, or a moderate duration marriage if appropriate.
Bridge-the-gap, Durational and Permanent Alimony ends upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the receiving party.

The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the relevant circumstances when deciding on the amount for alimony, if any, to be awarded.

To receive alimony, it must be requested in writing in the original filing. If it is not requested in writing before the final hearing, it is waived and cannot be requested later.

Child Custody and Support

Child custody and support is determined based on the best interests of the child. It is public policy that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities and joys of child-rearing. In terms of child support, Florida uses the Income Shares Model to calculate obligations. The guidelines are based on the combined income of both parents and take into account the financial contributions of both parents.

The court gives preference to shared parental responsibility unless it finds that this would be detrimental to the child, such as when a parent has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher involving domestic violence.

Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the minor child and the circumstances of the family. If a court finds it necessary, to protect a child support award, it may order the paying spouse to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy, bond, or some other means of security.

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