A Summary of Florida Divorce Laws
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Grounds for Divorce Under Florida Divorce Laws
Divorce Laws Specifically for the State of Florida
Florida divorce laws will allow you a divorce if one of the following two statements appears to be true:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- One (or sometimes both) of you is mentally incapacitated
Based on the evidence at the hearing, the court shall dispose of the petition for dissolution of marriage (i.e. divorce) when the petition is based on the allegation that the marriage is irretrievably broken as follows:
- If there is no minor child of the marriage, and if the responding party does not deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage if the court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken (if one person says it’s broken and the other person does not argue against it, a divorce shall be granted).
- When there is a minor child of the marriage, or when the responding party disputes the state of the marriage and denies to the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may:
- Order either or both parties to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi, or any other person deemed qualified by the court and acceptable to the party or parties; or
- Continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed 3 months, to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation; or
- Take such other action as may be in the best interest of the parties and the minor child of the marriage.
A judgment of dissolution of marriage shall result in each spouse having the status of being single.
If you wish to get divorced in the state of eternal summer and palm trees, you or your spouse must be a Florida resident for six (6) months prior to filing for the divorce.
Besides having to live in the state for six months, Florida divorce laws also stipulate that you must also wait a specified length of time between the filing of the divorce and the final judgment. Florida also has an exception to the twenty-day rule, which allows the court to enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date if it is shown that injustice would result from the delay.
Upon filing for dissolution of marriage, the petitioner must complete and file with the Clerk of the Circuit Court an unsigned anonymous informational questionnaire. For purposes of anonymity, the Clerk must keep completed questionnaires in a separate file for later distribution to researchers from the Florida State University Center for Marriage and Family. The actual questionnaire shall be formulated by researchers from Florida State University who shall distribute them to the Clerk of the Circuit Court in each county.
Alimony Pendente Lite (Pending Litigation); Suit Money
In every proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, a party may claim alimony and suit money in the petition or by motion, and if the petition is well founded, the court shall allow a reasonable sum therefore.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets and Liabilities
When it comes to distribution of assets, the court shall set apart assets and liabilities into three categories. The first two are those things that belong to you or your spouse outside of any marital assets and liabilities. So what’s yours is yours and what’s hers is hers. Then we come to what belongs to both of you together (anything you bought together during the marriage or any shared assets). The courts will attempt to distribute the marital assets and liabilities equally between the two of you.
Florida law allows the court to grant alimony to either party, depending on the circumstances of the divorce (so if you’re the one making the money, you can expect to pay). The good news is that alimony in Florida may not always be permanent in nature; in some cases, it may be rehabilitative (this means you only have to pay her until she is able to take care of herself).
In a case involving adultery, the court will consider the circumstances of the adultery when determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.
If you are one of the many stay-at-home-dads, the transition back into the working world will not be an easy one, but the court may order your ex-wife to pay you alimony. In either case, both the monetary amount and the time of alimony payment will be decided by the court after a thorough review of your case.
Child Custody and Support
- The court may order one or both parents to pay child support at any time during the divorce
- The court shall order that both parents share parental responsibility for a minor child unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child
- The court may award sole custody to one parent when it is deemed to be in the best interest of the minor child. The noncustodial parent may or may not be allowed visitation rights
- Another option for the court is to order rotating custody (also called split custody) wherein parental responsibility is shared but neither parent is designated as the primary custodial parent. This option is usually not in the best interest of the child for numerous reasons (distance between parents, hostility between parents, disruptive effect on the child, and so on)
Mediation of Certain Contested Issues
- In any proceeding in which the issues of parental responsibility, primary residence, visitation, or support of a child are contested, the court may refer the parties to mediation
- If you are able to reach an agreement through mediation, a consent order incorporating the agreement shall be prepared by the mediator and submitted to the parties and their attorneys for review. Upon approval by both parties, the consent order shall be reviewed by the court and, if approved, the agreement will be entered and enforced in the same manner as any other court order
Any divorce involving minor children requires that both parents complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the entry by the court of a final judgment. The court may excuse a party from attending the parenting course for good cause.
You must take this parenting course as soon as possible after filing for divorce and you will receive a certificate of completion, which you must present to the court in order for the divorce to be properly filed.
The course can be taken online or in several locations in your area.
If one parent is giving up custody of the child or children, they can skip taking the course without consequence and the divorce can still be finalized, giving custody to the parent who took the course. The other parent still has visitation rights unless stated otherwise by the court.
Child Support Guidelines; Retroactive Child Support
- For combined monthly available income less than the amount set out on the child support schedules, the parent should be ordered to pay a child support amount, determined on a case-by-case basis, to establish the principle of payment and lay the basis for increased orders should the parent’s income increase in the future.
- For combined monthly available income greater than the amount set out in the schedules, the obligation shall be the minimum amount of support provided by the guidelines plus the following percentages (based on the number of children involved in the marriage) multiplied by the amount of income over $10,000
- Number of Children – Percent of Income to be Paid
- Each parent’s percentage share of the child support need shall be determined by dividing each parent’s net income by the combined net income of both parents.
- Each parent’s actual dollar share of the child support need shall be determined by multiplying the minimum child support need by each parent’s percentage share.
- The court may adjust the minimum child support award, or either or both parents’ share of the minimum child support award, based upon any consideration in order to achieve an equitable result.
- Every petition for child support or for modification of child support shall be accompanied by an affidavit, which shows the party’s income, allowable deductions, and net income computed in accordance with this section. The affidavit shall be served at the same time that the petition is served.
- In an initial determination of child support, whether in a paternity action, dissolution of marriage action, or petition for support during the marriage, the court has discretion to award child support retroactive to the date when the parents did not reside together in the same household with the child, not to exceed a period of 24 months preceding the filing of the petition. Thus, if one parent was living alone with the child for a period of up to 24 months, the other parent will owe child support for that length of time.
Appointment of Guardian Ad Litem
Under Florida divorce laws, in an action for dissolution of marriage, modification, parental responsibility, custody, or visitation, if the court finds it is in the best interest of the child, the court may appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate.
A Guardian Ad Litem shall have the powers, privileges, and responsibilities to the extent necessary to advance the best interest of the child, including, but not limited to, investigating the allegations of the pleadings affecting the child, and, after proper notice to interested parties to the litigation and subject to conditions set by the court, may interview the child.
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