Florida Divorce Primer
Attorneys in the Boca Raton Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin represent individuals in divorce proceedings in Palm Beach and Broward Counties along Florida's southern Atlantic coast. Below is a basic primer highlighting selected issues in Florida divorce law. If you are contemplating a divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer for more specific advice relevant to your particular situation.
The divorce procedure begins with filing a petition in court in the county where either one or both spouses reside. Pursuant to the residency requirement, at least one spouse must live in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce. The main ground for filing for divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This basis is a "no-fault" ground, meaning that one party does not have to prove bad conduct on the part of the other spouse. A divorce may also be based on mental incapacity, where one of the spouses has been adjudged incapacitated for at least three years prior to filing.
Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will divide the marital property in a fair or equitable fashion. Keep in mind that "equitable" does not necessarily mean "equal." Factors such as the financial and household contributions of the spouses to the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the contribution of one spouse to the career or education of the other, and the desirability of having the children continue to reside in the family home, can all affect the distribution.
The court has jurisdiction over marital property, which is basically all assets acquired and liabilities (debts) incurred during the marriage by either spouse individually or together. Nonmarital assets would be those acquired individually before marriage or during marriage by way of gift or inheritance to one spouse alone. The proper characterization and valuation of assets and liabilities can be quite complex and is vital to obtaining an equitable distribution of the marital estate.
The public policy of the state is to ensure that both parents have frequent and continuing contact with the children following a divorce and continue to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the children. To that end, the father is given the same consideration as the mother in determining the primary residence of the child, without regard to the age or sex of the child. However, the primary focus of the court in awarding custody is the best interests of the child, and if it finds that shared custody would be detrimental to the child, it can award custody solely to one parent.
Both parents have an obligation to support their children financially, so when one parent is granted primary custody, the other parent will likely be ordered to pay support. The amount of support is determined according to statutory guidelines which use the incomes from both parents to determine a monthly support amount, which is then divided proportionally between the parents and offset against each other to determine which parent is paying the other and how much. The child support statutes contain numerous provisions for calculating the amount of support, and this determination can get quite complicated.
Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, may be ordered to be paid from one spouse to the other, but it is not automatically granted in every case. Factors considered in determining the amount of alimony include the standard of living established during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the financial resources of each party, including the property division; the contribution of each party to the marriage; and all sources of income available to either party.
For answers to other questions regarding divorce, see our page of Family Law Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). For advice or representation with a divorce or other family law matter, contact the Law Offices of Richard B. Barkin