Filing for divorce is a difficult process for most. Knowing what to expect, and having the trusted guidance of an attorney throughout the proceedings can make it a little less painful. Here are a few key things you should know before filing for divorce in Florida:
- Where to file: Each local circuit court has a Family Department. One spouse can file a “Petition for the Dissolution of a Marriage.” The other spouse will be served papers and then they may respond.
- Average length of process – Depending on the type of proceeding, a divorce can take anywhere from four months to years. An uncontested divorce—where the parties involved have no dependents and agree to the divorce and division of their assets—can be completed in four months. Initially contested cases, in which one party disputes either the divorce or its terms, are generally resolved in mediation prior to a final hearing. These take about six months, sometimes more. Contested cases take the longest, as they typically end up in court. In these cases, a year or more is not uncommon.
- Alimony – A court may order alimony depending on how long a couple was married, what their standard of living was, and the age and health of each spouse. Alimony can be short or long term, and may be awarded to allow one spouse an adjustment period, such as in the instance where education or retraining expenses which may be required by a spouse who did not work outside the home during the marriage. Durational or permanent alimony can be awarded, particularly for longer marriages.
- Assets – Assets and debts acquired over the length of the marriage are to be divided fairly between the divorcing parties. These are “marital assets.” “Non-marital assets” include whatever the couple entered into the marriage with. Each party is entitled to keep their non-marital assets, as long as they were not used to acquire marital assets (such as shared property).It is important to have all documentation – tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information, and any other significant financial information when filing
- Custody and Child Support – In Florida, the term “custody” is no longer used in courts. Instead, the concept is referred to as “timesharing.” When it comes to timesharing, if you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court will make a ruling based on what it determines the “best interest” of the child or children. Unless there is a reason one party is incapable of caring for the children, timesharing is generally divided up as a shared responsibility. Factors taken into account are each individual’s fitness as parents, preferences of the child, and ability to provide for the child. As for child support, it is determined upon a variety of factors. Florida’s standard needs table assesses child support amounts based on the child’s age, health, and child care costs. Judges use those guidelines to determine how much each parent is obligated to pay.
In a perfect world, divorce would be swift and painless. In reality, it can be a trying time. An well-versed family law attorney can provide practical levity at a time when their clients may be inclined to emotional decision-making.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?, myfloridalaw.com