Family Law FAQ

We understand that there are many aspects of divorcing in Florida that may produce anxiety, confusion, or anger, but we work hard to find solutions that let you remain as calm and confident as possible. Each divorce is unique, but when you know a little bit about what to expect, you are more likely to get more from your time with us and settle your divorce with as little animosity as possible.

I don't make enough money for my children's lives to be the same. What can I do to help maintain stability during the legal proceedings?

Florida divorce courts can order temporary child support, so that your kids receive the care they need while you wait for your divorce to become finalized. We can help you figure out how to position your needs for temporary-support and divorce hearings.

I made a lot of money in the past, but, in this economy, I can't pay in alimony anywhere near what I could have in the past-will the court understand what happened to me?

Every situation is unique and no one can guarantee an outcome in court, but the law is designed to accommodate changes in status as in alimony cases. When minor children are involved, the court considers the children's best interest above all else. It is our standard procedure to evaluate the present situation against the foreseeable future and design proposed alimony and child support arrangements so they are reasonable.

My spouse went on a spending rampage after I told him I want to divorce. Do I have to pay off half that credit card?

We deal with all sorts of property division issues, so this doesn't have to destroy your financial future. We may be able to show that the credit card is the responsibility of your spouse, because it isn't marital debt, or we may be able to show that your spouse did this as a preemptive strike against you.

I think I have a domestic violence problem. Can I still retain custody?

The court looks at the best interest of the children. If you are hitting your family members, the court may not think your children's best interests are served by staying with you. We recommend, outside our capacity as lawyers, that anyone involved in a violent situation remove him- or herself from the home and seek counseling.

I want to move out of Florida after my divorce. Will this affect my ability to retain custody?

If your children are Florida residents and the other parent objects, the Courts will want to see that the children's best interests are served. Generally, the Court will weigh their ability to spend time with both parents against the needs of the parents to live where they can earn a living or get assistance from relatives. We can work out a plan to show the court what your family needs to move forward and stay as healthy and happy as possible.

What is the difference between fault and no-fault divorce?

Up through the 1960s, the only way to secure a divorce was to prove that one spouse had committed marital misconduct and was at fault. In Florida, divorces were granted based on these faults:

· Impotence

· Adultery

· Extreme cruelty

· Violent and ungovernable temper

· Intemperance or drug addiction

· Incurable insanity

· Desertion for one year

· Previous valid marriage or divorce in another state or country

· Unlawful degree (for example, an incestuous marriage)

In the 1970s, no-fault divorces, in which it was not necessary to prove a spouse's wrongdoing, became common. Since the passage of Florida's 1971 Marriage Dissolution Act, divorces have been granted based on the irremediable breakdown of the marriage, or the couple not getting along because of incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. The issue of fault or marital misconduct may still come into play, however, in determining alimony and the distribution of property.

What is alimony and when can it be granted?

Alimony, also called spousal maintenance or spousal support, is a court-ordered payment by one former spouse to the other. Alimony is typically awarded for three reasons:

· To provide permanent support for a needy former spouse

· To provide temporary support while a former spouse acquires the education or training necessary to become self-sufficient

· To achieve an equitable distribution of marital property

The courts usually require the payment of a fixed monthly amount, though sometimes periodic alimony payments or a lump sum, or both, are ordered. The determining factors in a Florida alimony award are one spouse's need and the other spouse's ability to pay. Need does not mean complete and permanent dependence on the other spouse. In determining the amount of alimony to be awarded, the court considers all relevant economic and other factors necessary to achieve equity and justice between the parties, including:

· Standard of living established during the marriage

· Each party's age and physical and emotional condition

· Each party's financial resources, including non-marital and marital assets and liabilities

· Each party's contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, child care, education and career building

· All sources of income available to either party

· Time necessary to finish education or training to find appropriate employment

The duration of the marriage is also taken into consideration. Long-term marriages are more likely to result in permanent alimony, which is not generally awarded in short marriages.

What is meant by child support, child custody and visitation in Florida?

Both parents have a legal obligation to support a child, both during and after a divorce. In a Florida divorce action, the court orders either or both parents to pay child support in accordance with mandatory state guidelines, unless the court makes a specific finding that the guideline amount is unjust or inappropriate. The statutory guidelines specify a minimum amount that is determined directly from the parents' combined net monthly income, apportioned according to each parent's ability to pay.

Before 1982, Florida divorce courts typically awarded child custody to one parent, who was given both physical possession of the child and the right to make all decisions regarding the child's care. Since the enactment of Florida's 1982 Shared Parental Responsibility Act, child custody is shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. In that case, the court may order sole parental responsibility over specific aspects of a child's welfare, such as primary residence, education, or medical and dental care, as determined to be in the child's best interests.

In Florida, under a time-sharing arrangement, the court may designate a custodial parent with whom the child maintains a primary residence, while the other parent is granted a schedule of time for visiting with the child, called visitation.

Factors the court reviews in order to determine physical custody include each parent's moral fitness, mental and physical health, and ability to provide the child's food, clothing, medical care and other material needs. The court also takes into consideration:

· Which parent is more likely to allow frequent and continuing contact with the nonresidential parent

· Love, affection and other emotional ties between the parents and the child

· Length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity

· Permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home

· Child's home, school and community record

· Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse

The child's preference may be considered if the child is intelligent, understanding and experienced enough to express a preference.

How can a person gain protection against an abusive spouse?

Most states have criminal and civil domestic violence laws to protect against spousal abuse. Under Florida law, a domestic violence victim, or someone in imminent danger of becoming a victim, may apply for an injunction to restrain the abuser from committing acts of domestic violence, such as:

· Assault and aggravated assault

· Battery

· Sexual assault and battery

· Stalking and aggravated stalking, including following and repeatedly telephoning

· Kidnapping

· False imprisonment

· Other criminal acts that result in physical injury or death

Persons may seek domestic violence injunctions not only against spouses, but also against any abusive household member. The police have a duty to enforce a domestic violence protective order, and the person violating the order could be arrested or charged with contempt of court.

How is paternity established in Florida?

The presence of a man's name on a child's birth certificate does not necessarily determine his legal rights as a parent. In Florida, the legal paternity of a child may be established in the following ways:

· Through a paternity action initiated by the mother, putative father or the child

· By the father's marriage to the mother

· By a foreign judgment of paternity

· By the father's acknowledgment of paternity

Genetic blood testing is the surest way to determine paternity. In Florida, any party to a paternity proceeding may request that a blood test be given, or the court may order a test on its own motion.