Frequently Asked Questions

What is an overview of the divorce process in Florida? 

Here are some general points about florida divorce. 

In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.”

Florida is one of the many states that have abolished fault as a ground for dissolution of marriage. The only requirement to dissolve a marriage is for one of the parties to prove that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken. The reason for the irretrievable breakdown, however, may be considered under certain limited circumstances in the determination of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and debts, and the development of the parenting plan.

The parties, facts and circumstances in each case are unique; therefore, outcomes can differ from case to case. Outcomes in a dissolution of marriage include, among other things, the division of assets and debts, awards of spousal support, awards of child support, and decisions on parental responsibility and/or time-sharing schedules.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” or “standard” dissolution of marriage in Florida.

The dissolution of marriage process can be highly emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their children. Only a Florida family law attorney can provide legal advice.

Statutory requirements and court rules must be strictly followed or you may lose certain rights permanently. A knowledgeable attorney can analyze your unique situation and help you make decisions in your and your children’s best interests.

Divorce Overview

What is a domestic violence injunction? 

AN INJUNCTION FOR PROTECTION IS a Civil Court Order (often referred to as a "restraining order" and herein referred to as "Injunction") that places restrictions on an individual (referred to as the Respondent) who has allegedly committed acts or (in some cases) made threats of violence against another individual (referred to as the Petitioner). An Injunction is requested by the Petitioner who files a "Petition" with the Court asking for protection from the Respondent.

AN INJUNCTION MAY INCLUDE PROVISIONS THAT: restrain the Respondent from further acts of violence; order the Respondent to leave a shared dwelling; prevent the Respondent from coming to your home, school or place of employment; and/or award temporary custody of minor children.

AN INJUNCTION SHOULD NOT BE USED as a tool to manipulate the Respondent or the Judicial System, gain access to property, or to settle issues of child custody or spousal support, but rather to protect you against a genuine and well-founded fear of continued violence or abuse.

VIOLENCE IS DEFINED by Florida Statute 784.046(1)(a) as "any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death, by a person against another person."

VIOLENCE DOES NOT INCLUDE ALL OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOR. Trespassing, criminal mischief, threats, tampering with a witness and harassing phone calls are all criminal offenses which should be reported to law enforcement, but may not necessarily, alone, qualify for the issuance of an Injunction.

How do I change the amount of child support I pay?

Child support awards may typically be modified when, under the law and in the court's eyes, a "substantial change in circumstances" takes place. The legislature, and therefore the courts, deems that a substantial change has occurred whenever there is a significant change in income or financial ability of either party, when health insurance becomes available, or when a child is emancipated. An increase or decrease in income for either party will offset the child support equation, thereby increasing or decreasing the child support obligation.

Termination of a party's employment which has taken place without fault may be grounds for a modification of child support.
In order for the court to find that a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification has taken place, the amount provided for under the Child Support Guidelines must be at least a 15% difference (or $50.00 per month, whichever is greater) from the amount previously ordered.

The change should be one that was not recognized during the earlier proceedings and it should be long-term and/or continuing in nature. A one time bonus, judgment, award, or prize, for example, is not "continuing" in nature and therefore cannot affect long term net income.

If the paying spouse remarries and the new spouse has children, or the new couple has another child, the effect of that child on the parties' finances will not be considered.

All of this comes together as follows, taking the statutory minimum change (15% or $50) into consideration:

If the paying spouse sustains an increase in income, his/her proportionate share of the child support equation, and thus the payment, may be increased. The converse effect would result from a involuntary  decrease in the paying spouse's income.
If the non-paying spouse sustains an increase in income, the paying spouse's proportionate share of the child support equation, and thus the payment, may be decreased. The converse effect would result fro a decrease in the non-paying spouse's income.
Because health insurance and the cost of child care and babysitting are included as part of the child support equation, changes in these expenses (i.e. non-paying spouse incurring new after care expenses or health insurance premium) will have a direct effect on the child support equation and may also warrant a modification.

How do the courts decide child custody when the parents
can't agree?

Florida judges must look at the following factors when deciding custody.  Notice the clear emphasis on demonstrating parenting behaviors and a history of meeting the child’s needs. Keeping children away from the divorce case is another area that is now clearly spelled out in the law. Here are the factors:
(a) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close & continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the timesharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to determine, consider & act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, & disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity & disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages & needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific issue

How does alimony work in Florida? 

Alimony In Florida

The first thing one should know about alimony in Florida is that there is no mathematical calculation in determining alimony such as there is with calculating child support. The court has broad discretion to decide (1) entitlement to alimony, (2) the amount of alimony, (3) the duration of alimony, and (4) the type of alimony. There are, however, perimeters to which the court is bound.

Entitlement to Alimony

The overriding legislative intent in establishing alimony law is that the State of Florida does not want to support an impecunious spouse by way of welfare, food stamps, and the like. Therefore, courts will look to the breadwinning spouse to ensure that the other spouse does not go homeless or without basic living necessities.

What this has translated to by way of laws and judicial interpretation is that there are two spouses who enjoyed a certain standard of living throughout the marriage, and, upon dissolution of that marriage, both spouses should continue to enjoy that same standard living.

To the extent that one spouse cannot afford that established standard of living with his or her own income, the other spouse must provide supplemental income. Of course, what usually occurs upon dissolution of marriage is that the standard of living enjoyed by two people in the same household will go down when there are two households to maintain.
In determining whether to award alimony in Florida, the court will first make a determination as to need and ability to pay and then the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
• The standard of living established during the marriage;
• The duration of the marriage;
• The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party;
• The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each;
• The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
• The contribution of each party to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
• The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common;
• The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award; and
• All sources of income available to either party.
Amount of Alimony 
The primary factors the Court must in determining the amount of alimony are need of the payee spouse and ability to pay of the paying spouse.  The court may impute income to a spouse who is earning less than the spouse is capable of earning through his or her best efforts.
To impute income means that the court will pretend that the spouse is earning a certain amount of income for purposes of calculating amount of alimony needed or amount the paying spouse is able to pay.
Duration of Alimony in Florida
There is a rebuttable presumption against an award of permanent alimony in a short-term marriage, which is 7 years or shorter. There is a rebuttable presumption for an award of permanent alimony in a long-term marriage, which is 17 years or longer. There is no presumption for or against permanent alimony in a moderate-term marriage, which is a marriage greater than 7 years but less than 17 years. The type of alimony generally dictates the duration.

Types of Alimony in Florida
•  Permanent: Permanent alimony is alimony for support until the remarriage of the payee spouse or the death of either party. Permanent alimony is always modifiable with a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.
 Rehabilitative: Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide assistance to a spouse while he or she regains the ability or establishes the capacity for self support. The party seeking rehabilitative alimony for retraining has the burden of proof as to the retraining plan, the object of rehabilitation, the cost of the plan, the period necessary to complete the plan, and how the plan is workable to make the party self supporting.
•  Bridge-the-Gap: Bridge-the-Gap alimony is an award for a specific short duration to assist the spouse with the transition from married life to single life and is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs. The length of the award may not exceed 2 years. The award of this type of alimony is non-modifiable.
•  Lump-Sum: Lump-Sum alimony is a certain sum paid at one time or installments and the court will order this type of alimony only when an award of permanent alimony is justified and the court finds special circumstances warranting a lump-sum payment such as if the paying spouse is in poor health.
 Durational: Newly created, durational alimony is to provide a payee spouse with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration. An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either spouse or upon the remarriage of the payee spouse. Durational alimony is modifiable with a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. However, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
•  Nominal: Nominal alimony may be awarded in cases in which the court finds entitlement to alimony, but due to insufficient resources available at the time of trial, the court cannot award sufficient alimony to meet the needs of the payee spouse. The nominal alimony award reserves jurisdiction for the court to later modify the amount of alimony.

Subsequent to an award of permanent alimony, the court may terminate or modify that award if it finds that the payee spouse is in a supportive relationship. There are several factors the court must consider before finding a supportive relationship exists, but a supportive relationship is essentially a relationship akin to a marriage and one based on financial support.
Alimony may be taxable to the payee spouse and deductible by the paying spouse. Retroactive alimony may be awarded back to the date of filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
The court may order the paying to maintain a life insurance policy as security for an alimony obligation. Alimony will be considered as the payee’s income for purposes of calculating child support.
Finally, in determining a proper award of alimony, the court must consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
If you have question regarding alimony or other areas of divorce call us today 727-643-8964.