SOME BASICS ABOUT DIVORCE IN FLORIDA
by Shawn Hungate.
Going through a divorce can be a trying time for anyone. Dealing with custody, visitation, child support, alimony, property division only adds to the stress and emotional turmoil that comes with a divorce.
Before you decide to take legal steps to file for divorce and end your marriage, you should make sure that you have taken the steps to see if you can save it. There is help out there from professional help, to religious organizations, even talking to family and friends. Ultimately, if you do decide to file for divorce, it is important that you consult with an attorney to know your rights.
A divorce in Florida is officially called a Dissolution of Marriage. In Florida, you do not have to prove that anyone is at fault for the divorce. Thus, Florida, as far as divorce law goes, is a no-fault state. This can reduce potential harm to the parties and their children, fi they have any, by not having to show things like adultery or abandonment. The most common grounds for divorce in Florida are simply that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Additionally, either the Husband or Wife must have been a Florida resident for at least six months. Circumstances that would otherwise constitute “fault” can sometimes be used, though, in the determination of alimony or child support. Be sure to speak to an attorney about this, though, as many factors that may feel like “fault” will not be considered by the Court.
Divorces in Florida can be handled in many ways. One way is the traditional “Contested Divorce”. This is where one party files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Court and has the other party served with the Petition. The other party must answer within a given time period and the lawsuit proceeds from there. Usually, Mediation is had and, if the case does not settle there, further litigation will likely be required.
Another way to get a divorce in Florida is an “Uncontested Divorce”. This is where the parties enter into an agreement about how their property will be divided, how they will continue to raise their children (with a “Parenting Plan”), what child support will be paid, and if alimony is to be paid. Although this sounds like an easier process, it is still imperative to seek out a lawyer to help you with this process. You still need to be advised of your rights. Additionally, the likelihood of having to go back to court later on is increased greatly if you try to do this on your own or simply hire a paralegal to prepare documents, as they are unable to give you any kind of legal advice. A special kind of Uncontested Divorce is a “Simplified Divorce” and is filed only in certain circumstances.
A third way to get a divorce in Florida is through a rather new method called a “Collaborative Divorce”. This is where both parties obtain counsel, but it is done with the idea of reaching a settlement. Both parties, and their attorneys, must enter into a Collaborative Agreement. I will discuss more about Collaborative Divorces in a later post.
Additionally, Judges and Clerks cannot give legal advice. They can only answer the most basic questions you may have, and this is normally limited to procedural questions. Only an attorney can give you legal advice about your Divorce. Call my office or email me and I would be happy to set up a time to speak with you about your unique case.