In Florida “divorce” is formally known as “dissolution of marriage”. When a husband or wife petitions the court for a dissolution of their marriage, aside from legally terminating or “dissolving” the marriage, the court must also resolve various issues related to the marriage. For Example, the court will determine questions related to the ownership of personal property, alimony, possession and eventual ownership of the marital home, and if there are minor children, time sharing and child support.
The divorce process in Florida is controlled by Chapter 61, Florida Statutes. This portion of Florida law controls how family law judges decide key issues in divorce cases.
Part of the divorce process involves determining the property and debt that each spouse will take once the marriage is dissolved. Under Florida law dividing property and debt between the spouses is referred to as “Equitable Distribution”. Section 61.075, Florida Statutes controls equitable distribution and provides a judge guidelines to apply when dividing the marital property and debt.
Florida law requires the judge to initially “begin [the analysis] with the premise that the distribution should be equal”. This means that barring additional information, the husband and wife will walk away from the marriage with an even 50/50 split of martial property and debt. However, the judge may order an “unequal split”, when “there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors”. § 61.075, Florida Statutes.
If either the husband or spouse claim that there should be an unequal distribution of the marital property (i.e. 60/40, 70/30, etc.) the court will look to “all relevant factors”, including the factors enumerated under § 61.075, Florida Statutes. The following is a list of the factors mentioned above, that the judge will consider before deciding to divide the marital property/debts unequally. The factors include:
As you probably have guessed, there is no “one size fits all” here. There will always be arguments for and against the equal or unequal distribution of the marital property and debt. For this reason, it is essential that your divorce lawyer has a firm understanding of your marriage.
The terms alimony or spousal support/maintenance basically refers to the legal obligation of one spouse to financially support the other spouse. Florida law, specifically § 61.08, Florida Statutes establishes the forms of alimony under Florida law as well as the guidelines judges must follow before granting a spouse the right to alimony.
Under Florida law, there are four (4) different types of alimony, including “bridge-the-gap”, “rehabilitative”, “durational” and “permanent”. Below is a short description of each type of alimony recognized in Florida.
Bridge the Gap Alimony is meant to assist a party by providing support to make a transition from being married to being single. Specifically, to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs. Bridge-The-Gap Alimony cant be for longer than two (2) years. See § 61.08(5), Florida Statutes.
Rehabilitative Alimony is designed to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. See § 61.08(6), Florida Statutes.
Durational Alimony: is meant for the purpose of providing a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. See § 61.08(7), Florida Statutes.
Permanent Alimony: is meant to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage. See § 61.08(8), Florida Statutes.
In Florida,before you can get alimony a judge must determine that “[the] party has an actual need for alimony or maintenance and whether [other spouse] has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance.”See § 61.08(2), Florida Statutes.
In other words the judge will not order the other party to pay alimony if it is clear that you can support yourself and maintain the same standard of living you had during the marriage. Likewise, the judge may not order alimony if your spouse does not have the ability to pay for alimony. See § 61.08(2), Florida Statutes.
Assuming, the court finds a spouse’s need for alimony and the other spouse’s ability to pay alimony, the next question is the type of alimony to be awarded. Florida law says in determining the type of alimony to award, a judge should consider “all factors” including the factors listed under§ 61.08(2), Florida Statutes. Those factors include:
Under Florida law, Child Custody is now referred to as “timesharing”. Timesharing is controlled by § 61.13, Florida Statutes.
The law in Florida is clear that“[t]here is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.” In other words the law requires the judge to view each party equally when deciding the time sharing plan.
In fact, Florida law says that “[t]he court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.” § 61.13(2)(c)2., Florida Statutes.
Florida law states that “the best interest of the child” is the “primary consideration” when the judge is creating or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parental plan , including a time-sharing schedule. See § 61.13(3)(a)-(t), Florida Statutes.
The “best interest of the child” standard is very fluid, meaning it is not a black and white test. Instead, Florida law requires the judge to take a variety of factors into consideration, including the “welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family”.
Moreover, § 61.13(3)(a)-(t), Florida Statutes contain all of the factors that the judge must consider when deciding on a parenting plan and answering the best interest of the child question. The factors include, but are not limited to: