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FAMILY LAW

Before you take any legal action to end your marriage, you should make sure that you have attempted to reconcile.  Many organizations and community programs provide marriage counseling and other mechanisms that may help you reconcile your marriage.

You may wish to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi or other qualified person before you hire a attorney for dissolution/divorce.

GENERAL

The official term for divorce in Florida is “Dissolution of Marriage.”  Florida is one of many states that has abolished fault as a ground for divorce.  The only thing that is required is that the marriage be “Irretrievably Broken.”  Either spouse can file for Dissolution of Marriage and all that needs to be proven is that one of the parties has been a resident of the State of Florida for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition and that the marriage is irretrievably broken.  Fault, however, can be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of assets and liabilities and the determination of parental responsibility.

Each divorce case is different and therefore results vary.  The division of assets and liabilities, potential support/alimony issues, parental responsibility issues and time-sharing issues coupled with the highly emotional aspect of this area of law often result in contested litigation and high legal fees and cost.

It is highly recommended that you obtain the services of an attorney concerning your legal questions, your rights, your children’s rights, your property rights and your legal responsibilities.  The attorneys at torres|benet, p.a. can analyze your unique facts and help you navigate what is in your and your family’s best interest. 

REGULAR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

A standard/regular dissolution case in Florida commences with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, filed with the Circuit Court, which as mentioned states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and sets out what the Petitioner wants from the other party or Respondent.  The Respondent must file an answer to the Petition within twenty days of being served and usually raises any additional issues that the same wants addressed by the court.

Florida Statutes and Court Rules require each party to exchange certain financial documents (Mandatory Disclosure) and require that each party complete a Financial Affidavit.  All financial documents can be waived by the parties, save and except, the financial affidavit.  If the parties have minor children, they must file several other documents, including and not limited to a child support guidelines worksheet, which can not be waived by the parties.

If the parties to a dissolution can agree on property settlement, parental responsibility and the other many aspects of dissolution via  a Marital Settlement Agreement (Uncontested Dissolution), the Court can ratify the settlement agreement within a Final Judgment and the parties can usually be divorced in a matter of a few weeks post execution of the settlement. 

For parties who are unable to agree (Contested Dissolution) the process usually takes substantially longer and the Court must adjudicate all matters at a final hearing. 

The Court will almost always order that the parties to a contested dissolution to attend mediation before they set a Pre-trial and Trial.  Mediation is a procedure used by the Court to assist the parties in working out an arrangement without the protracted process or expense of trial and litigation.  The purpose of mediation is not to save the marriage, but to help the divorcing couples reach an amicable settlement.

Reaching a settlement, whether by marital settlement agreement or mediation, usually requires compromise by both parties.  It is often said that “a good settlement is one in which both parties leave unhappy.”

SIMPLIFIED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

Certain couples are eligible to dissolve their marriage by way of a simplified procedure which is relatively inexpensive.  This type of procedure does not often involve attorneys and was designed to allow the parties to dissolve their marriage if: 

(A) They both agree to use this form of dissolution; 

(B) They have no minor or dependent children; 

(C) They have no minor adopted children; 

(D) The wife is not pregnant;

(E) At least one of the parties has lived in Florida for the past six months;

(F) The parties have agreed on division of assets and liabilities;

(G) Neither party is seeking alimony;

(H) Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Unlike a regular dissolution of marriage, parties who use a simplified dissolution do not have a right to examine and cross-examine the other party as a witness and to obtain financial documents from the other.

PROPERTY DIVISION

Often one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce, division of marital assets and liabilities, requires a thorough review of each parties financials and often a review of one’s credit report.  Marital assets may include cars, houses, retirement accounts (Pensions, 401K’s etc.), business interests, cash, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, personal property and other valuables.  Liabilities include mortgages, car loans, credit card balances and other debts.  Normally, any and all assets and liabilities acquired or incurred during the marriage are considered marital and subject to division.  The foregoing does not mean that the parties may not also have assets and liabilities that are non-marital.

In Florida, marital property is subject to “Equitable Distribution” which means that said property should be divided fairly or equitably between the parties regardless of how title is held.  The concept of “Equitable” was established by Florida Statutes and Case Law and is determined using a long list of statutory factors.  Factors considered by the Court include and are not limited to the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, the duration of the marriage and economic circumstances of each spouse.  

ALIMONY

After the division of marital property or equitable distribution has been accomplished, the Court may consider an award of alimony.  The Court may grant alimony to either party and includes and is not limited to rehabilitative alimony, permanent alimony, lump-sum alimony and durational alimony.

In awarding alimony, the Court considers factors such as the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, age and physical condition of the parties, emotional condition of the parties, the financial resources available to the parties, the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to find employment and the role of the parties during the marriage.  In addition, the Court may consider whatever other and further information the Court deems necessary to do equity and justice between the Husband and Wife.

TAXES

There are very important tax considerations to be aware of in any divorce, you should consult with a tax expert or accountant, it is extremely important to find out how your taxes will change before you get divorced.  torres|benet, p.a. is not a licensed tax advisor, accountant or tax entity, any advise given is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as complete or accurate.  

SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR CHILDREN

Public Policy in Florida dictates that a minor child of the marriage have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a dissolution.  The Father is given the same consideration as the mother in determining parental responsibility and time-sharing regardless of the child’s age or sex.

Absent a determination that one of the parents is unfit or the Court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the well-being of the minor, parental responsibility will be shared by the parents.  Shared responsibility requires that both parents confer on all major decisions affecting the well-being of the child including and not limited to education, religion, medical needs and dental needs.

If the parents can not agree, the court may: (1) rule on the matter; (2) appoint a parent coordinator; or (3) may assign one of the parents sole authority on the matter.  In rare cases, the Court can order sole parental responsibility and custody to one parent.  

In determining parental responsibility the Court considers how the parents will share the daily task, the time-sharing schedule, which parent is responsible for health care, school and all other child related activities.  Florida Statute includes a list of factors for the Court to consider when making a determination of parental responsibility that requires the Court to act in the “best interest of the child.”

CHILD SUPPORT

Both parents have a responsibility to support the minor child/ren of the marriage.  In Florida, support is based on the Child Support Guidelines promulgated by the State which takes into account the needs of the child/ren and the financial resources of the parents.  Child support last until the child reaches the age of majority (18 unless said child is still faithfully attempting to complete their H.S. Education); the child marries; the child emancipates; the child joins the armed forces or the child dies.

The material on this page has been prepared and or compiled by torres|benet, p.a. for informational purposes only. RECEIPT OF THIS INFORMATION DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.