Florida Divorce Attorneys
Divorces in Florida are stressful, bring out emotion, and are deeply personal. The Florida divorce attorneys at Fairway Law Group have experience handling divorce cases in Florida. We treat our clients with the respect they deserve while giving real advice and guidance throughout the divorce process. Clients of Fairway Law Group have the benefit of an experienced team working for them during their divorce action.
The purpose of a Florida divorce lawyer is to handle the court proceedings while advising the client. The Florida divorce lawyers at Fairway Law Group believe in keeping their clients updated on their cases and providing their clients with real advice. When you hire Fairway Law Group to represent you in your divorce, you will receive real advice in real-time.
What is a Florida Divorce?
At its simplest, a divorce (also known as a “dissolution of marriage”) is a legal action taken by married individuals to terminate their marital union. It involves the process of dividing marital assets, determining spousal support if necessary, and if you have children, settling on matters of child custody and support. Depending on the specifics of your case the divorce can range anywhere from simple to complex.
If there are no kids, no marital property, and the marriage only lasted a short amount of time, then many times the divorce will be considered “uncontested” and can move through the court system faster. Alternatively, when there are children and/or marital property the divorce process can become more complicated. This is especially true when the spouses cannot agree on how to split up the marital assets (such as the home or retirement accounts).
What are the basic parts of a Florida Divorce?
1. Grounds for Divorce: Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that either spouse can file for divorce without having to prove that the other did something wrong. The person filing for divorce only needs to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
2. Residency Requirement: At least one spouse must have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing for divorce.
3. Property Division: Florida follows an “equitable distribution” rule, meaning marital property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, between spouses.
4. Spousal Support/Alimony: This is not guaranteed in every case. The court considers various factors such as length of the marriage, each spouse’s economic circumstances, and the contribution of each spouse to the marriage. Florida also recently updated the laws regarding the award of alimony to increase fairness.
5. Child Custody and Support: Florida courts make decisions in the best interest of the child. The state encourages shared parental responsibility and strives to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
6. Process: The process begins when one spouse files a ‘Petition for Dissolution of Marriage’ with the court. If both parties agree on all terms, it can be a simplified divorce process. If not, it could involve negotiations, mediation, or a court trial.
What are the first steps to take if I want a divorce in Florida?
1. Get A New Email Address: If you believe there is any possibility that your spouse has access to your email address, it will be smart to obtain a new email address. This will allow you to know that any communications sent to you from your attorney will be private.
2. Start Gathering Financial Information: Start by collecting and organizing all your financial records including bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns, retirement accounts,
mortgages, and any other documents showing income, debt, assets, or liabilities. This will be vital when it comes to the division of assets and debts and is a requirement in divorce cases.
3. Consider Your Living Situation: Decide whether you want to stay in your marital home during the divorce or whether another living arrangement might be better for your emotional well-being
and/or the well-being of your children if any are involved.
4. Think about Custody Preferences: If you have children, start thinking about what type of custody arrangement you believe would be in their best interest. This can be a sensitive topic,
but the earlier you consider this, the better prepared you’ll be.
5. Inventory Personal Property: Make a list of all the personal property that belongs to you, such as jewelry, vehicles, furniture, or any other items of value. This can be important in the property division aspect of your divorce.
6. Establish Individual Credit: If you do not already have credit in your name, consider applying for a credit card or loan to establish it. This can be crucial in establishing your financial independence.
7. Seek Emotional Support: Don’t underestimate the emotional strain of divorce. It can be helpful to start seeing a therapist or counselor or join a support group to help navigate your emotions during this process.
Will I lose custody of my kids if I file for divorce in Florida?
The short answer is no. Although every case is different, Florida follows the “best interest of the child” standard in determining custody (referred to as “time-sharing”). At the outset, the court will start at a 50/50 time split between the parents. This is because the courts in Florida believe that it is in the best interest of the child to spend time with both parents.
Before the court determines the custody of the children, the parties will have the ability to work out the time-sharing arrangement between them outside of court. Typical time-sharing models include one week on, and one week off. There is also another model where one parent has the children for 2-3 days at a time.
Are you prepared for the discovery process of a Florida divorce?
The discovery process can feel intrusive. Each party can take depositions, request documents, ask you to swear to things under oath, and, in some circumstances, even force you to be examined by a doctor or mental health professional. Even if you don’t feel like the information is relevant to the case or if it’s uncomfortable to discuss or embarrassing, you will still have to cooperate with the other party that is seeking the information.
As lawyers, we try and protect our clients in the discovery process the best we can, but our power is limited. There are only a few types of information we can prevent you from having to reveal to the other side. For example, you don’t have to reveal things you discuss with your attorney, a sexual assault or domestic violence counselor, or a religious counselor. However, conversations you have with anyone else if fair game. For example, if you are texting about the divorce case with your mom, your spouse can demand that you hand over the text thread so they can see what you are talking about. That is why we advise clients from the get-go to not discuss the case with anyone other than your attorney and especially not to discuss anything in writing.
There are certain times when can ask the court for a protective order when your spouse or his or her attorney is abusing the discovery process to make you spend more money or to harass you. However, unless there is a clear intention on behalf of your spouse to harass you by using discovery, most judges will not intervene to protect you.
Often, we must subpoena records from other people and businesses to prove your divorce case at trial. A subpoena forces a non-party to provide documents or information under oath. Just because you have your spouse’s bank statements doesn’t mean we can admit them as evidence. Before a judge will consider any document, it must first be authenticated, i.e. proven to be a true and accurate document. Since other parties must provide their documents under oath in response to a subpoena, a subpoena is a highly effective way to obtain admissible evidence that we can use to prove your case.
Sometimes, we must use expert witnesses in divorce cases. This will increase the cost of a divorce case. If we need to prove something that requires a special skill, the only way we can get evidence before a judge is through an expert. For example, if we are trying to prove the value of someone’s classic car in a divorce, we cannot take your word for it. We would need to hire an appraiser who has a background in appraising classic cars. The same goes for valuing a business, personal property, or even livestock.
As mentioned above, there are times when you or your spouse may be forced to see a doctor or psychologist or even have to provide a blood sample. For example, in paternity cases – when the fatherhood of a child is in question – the court may order you or your child to get a blood test. Also, in child custody cases where you or your spouse’s mental health is in question, the court may order you or your spouse to be evaluated by a psychologist to determine whether you or your spouse are a danger to the child.
What happens if you do not comply with discovery? If you do not provide information that is asked of you during discovery – or if you provide incomplete information – your spouse may move for a court order to force you to participate and if they win that motion, you could have to pay for their attorney fees and costs. If you do not obey a court order forcing you to provide certain information, you may lose your case, be ordered to pay fines, or even be held in contempt of court.
Who gets the home in a divorce in Florida?
Many married couples in Florida own a home. It is very difficult to live under the same roof during a divorce and not something we recommend. How does divorce affect the marital home in Florida? Who gets to stay in the home during a divorce in Florida? Who has to pay the mortgage during a divorce in Florida?
If the married couple bought the house during the marriage, it is the “marital home.” Both spouses own the home together, each having a 50% interest in the property regardless of who made the down payment, who is on the deed or mortgage contract, or who pays the mortgage.
It is a good idea to try and figure out who will stay in the house during the divorce and who will pay the mortgage and bills. The spouse who wants to stay in the house needs to ask for it in their initial petition for divorce or counterpetition. If the spouse who leaves the marital home is still paying the mortgage and bills, it’s a good idea to ask for a credit, set-off, or rental value of the marital home in the initial petition or counterpetition. At the end of the case, when assets and liabilities are distributed – in equitable distribution – the spouse who left the house but continued paying the bills might get some of their money back.
If there is a disagreement about which spouse will stay in the marital home during the divorce, either spouse may file a motion for temporary relief and argue that he or she should have “exclusive use” of the marital home. However, a court will not rule that one spouse should leave the home unless there is a clear showing that there is an immediate risk to either spouse or their children. Additionally, many judges will make the couple attend mediation to see if they can work out a deal before deciding who will get to stay in the house. If the couple agrees or if the judge decides that one spouse gets to stay in the house, the other spouse is not allowed to go in the house even if their name is on the deed and they are paying the mortgage. If a spouse enters the house when they are not supposed to, they can be arrested or held in contempt of court.
Even if one spouse was awarded temporary exclusive use and possession of the marital home, that will not guarantee that the spouse will get to keep the marital home permanently. If both spouses want to keep the marital home, the judge will have to decide who gets to keep it. When making that decision, the judge will consider what’s in the best interest of the couple’s children and what’s fairest for either spouse. For example, if one spouse is disabled and the home has been outfitted with accommodations that make the home comfortable for the disabled spouse, the court will probably say that the disabled spouse gets to keep the home.
When it comes to equitable distribution and the marital home, the house will need to be sold and the profit distributed under a marital settlement agreement or court order. However, if the couple agrees that one spouse will get the marital home, that spouse will need to refinance the home into his or her name. During the refinance, the spouse who keeps the home may need to withdraw equity from the home to buy out the other spouse’s interest in the home. The spouse who is keeping the home may not need to withdraw equity from the home during a refinance if he or she is owed alimony or other marital assets can be shuffled around to set off the other spouse’s ownership interest.
Any agreement regarding the marital home should account for all probable contingencies such as who is responsible for repairs, what realtor should be used to sell the property, the sales price of the home, and how long either spouse has to refinance the home.
Should I hire a lawyer to help me with a divorce in Florida?
It is always in your best interest to hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce action, regardless of how simple or complex your case is.
At the core, an attorney serves as your advocate and guide, ensuring your interests are protected, and helping you understand and navigate the legal system. Although it is possible to file a divorce without an attorney, it will always be in your best interest to hire an attorney. Here are some reasons why:
1. Legal Advice: The Florida divorce attorneys and staff will provide advice about your rights and responsibilities under Florida law. We will explain the potential outcomes you can expect in your case and guide you in making informed decisions.
2. Filing and Paperwork: The divorce process involves a significant amount of legal paperwork. A Florida divorce attorney ensures that all necessary documents are correctly completed and filed promptly with the appropriate court.
3. Negotiation and Mediation: A major part of any divorce involves negotiations between the parties on issues like property division, spousal support, and child custody. We will represent your interests during these negotiations and work towards a settlement that is favorable to you.
4. Representation in Court: If negotiations fail, or if it’s in your best interest, we will represent you in court proceedings to advocate for your rights.
5. Ensuring Compliance: Once a divorce agreement or court order is in place, we will assist you in enforcing the agreement with your ex-spouse.
At Fairway Law Group, we believe in doing great work, fast. We’ll be there to walk you through each step, keeping you informed and making sure your voice is heard throughout the process.