Every family is unique and as a result, legal matters can be especially complex. Our compassionate team of legal representatives understands the toll divorce may take on a family and we provide the support and trustworthy counsel our clients need. With legal strategies tailored specifically to our client’s needs, they can build a strong foundation for a brighter future.
Call our Cape Coral divorce attorney at (239) 319-4441 today.
Do You Need Grounds for Divorce in FL?
In some states, spouses need to provide grounds for divorce when filing, but in Florida, spouses only need to state that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one spouse was mentally incapacitated for at least three years before the divorce is filed. A marriage is irretrievably broken when spouses cannot reach a resolution on any matter and the relationship breaks down entirely. Another widely used term, irreconcilable differences, is often used to describe this breakdown.
Florida is not a community property state which means the court will divide property equitably depending on specific factors. These factors include:
- Each spouse’s income
- Earning potential
- Marriage duration
- Number of children
- Individual debts and assets
While FL is a no-fault divorce state, some aggravating factors could affect property division. For example, if one spouse was unfaithful and spent a significant amount of money on the affair, the judge may take it into account.
Child custody is one of the most emotional and potentially complicated elements of a divorce. During this part of the divorce, parents must provide a parenting time agreement that enables both parents to have roughly equal visitation with their children. In some cases, the court may only award custody to one spouse.
Factors that may impact child custody include:
- The child’s medical and education needs
- Each parent’s ability to provide consistency and emotional support
- Criminal history
- Geographic viability
- The child’s involvement in their community including their school, extracurricular activities, etc.
The judge will consider all of the factors listed above and determine an arrangement with the child’s best interests in mind.
The Divorce Filing Process
Before an individual can file for divorce, they must meet FL residency requirements. According to the law, one or both spouses must live in the state for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce. A person may prove that they meet these requirements by presenting a copy of either their spouse’s or their own government-issued ID to the court. A signed and notarized witness testimony from an individual who may verify residency may also be submitted to the court.
Petition and Response
Once proof of residency is established, individuals must file a petition for divorce to officially initiate the legal process. The person filing the petition is referred to as the petitioner. The petitioner must state that the marriage cannot continue or is irretrievably broken.
After filing the petition, the respondent – the other spouse – must respond. The respondent must compose an answer to the petition and file their answer with the court within twenty days of the date they received the divorce papers. In most cases, a response should include a counter-petition that includes terms that the respondent agrees or disagrees with and terms of their own. During this phase of divorce, both the petitioner and respondent can request protective orders or child custody orders from the court.
Similar to other legal cases, a discovery phase must take place after the initial motions. During this process, both parties will have the opportunity to gather important information that could impact the outcome of the divorce. For example, spouses may request tax returns, financial statements, and documentation to aid in the property valuation process.
During the final phase of divorce, parents must draft a parenting plan that addresses the roles and responsibilities each parent will have once the divorce is finalized. A parenting plan should also include how parents communicate about timesharing and which parent is responsible for completing permission forms, healthcare documents, and enrollments.
Once all major matters are settled and both parties reach an agreement, the judge may sign an order of dissolution or Final Judgement which is the final document necessary for a divorce. After the Final Judgement, the divorce is legally binding and complete.
In some cases, spouses may not be able to reach an agreement on their own, extra measures may be necessary. For example, spouses may need divorce mediation to reach a final decision that serves both parties. Additionally, mediation may be necessary if the divorce process goes on too long without progress toward establishing an agreement. It is important to note that for cases involving domestic violence, mediation is not required.
For some spouses, however, mediation is not enough and the case may go to trial. In these cases, both parties may present their interests to a judge who will make a final decision regarding the primary elements of the case including property division, child custody, and financial support. Decisions made by a judge can be appealed and one or both parties may request a new hearing.
It is important to note that not all divorce cases go to trial and it is possible to settle out of court. Depending on a family’s circumstances, they may qualify for simple dissolution or an uncontested divorce settlement both of which do not involve a formal court process. A simplified dissolution of marriage is an option for spouses with no minor children and simple assets. An uncontested divorce is essentially the same but may also apply to parents of minor children who can reach an agreement on all matters related to the divorce.
The Cost of Divorce
The cost of a divorce depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the case. If the divorce process takes a long time to resolve, spouses will need to pay more in legal fees and other costs than spouses who resolve the matter quickly. Mediation can save time and money in some cases especially if spouses are able to reach an agreement as a result.
There are also specific divorce cases including those that involve high net worths that involve third-party consultants. For example, spouses that own international real estate may need an appraiser to value the estate during the property division process.
Compassionate Legal Advocates
Family First Legal Group has extensive experience handling a wide variety of cases and can assist with all aspects of the divorce process. Our legal professionals can assist clients with property division, spousal or child support, and post-divorce modifications. We handle contested and uncontested divorces and advocate for our client’s best interests during every step of the divorce process.
Schedule a consultation with our Cape Coral divorce attorney and take the first step toward resolution.
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