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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