10 Things You Should Know About Divorce in Florida
The coronavirus is causing ripple effects throughout the world, and the trickle down of these changes has affected almost everyone on the planet. Inevitably, the consequences are also now hitting home.
Because the coronavirus has forced families across the nation into quarantine, cohabitating couples are spending a significantly longer amount of time with each other every day than many previously did before social distancing became the norm. If what we’ve seen in China is any indication, predictions of a surge in divorces rates here in the States are looking more and more accurate.
If you’re a Florida resident considering divorce, there are some things that you should know. Keeping these factors in mind will save you both time and money, and allow you to be fully prepared when it comes time to consult an attorney.
In order to get divorced in the state of Florida, at least one of you must be a resident of the state or a member of the Armed Forces stationed here. If both you and your spouse agree that there are “irreconcilable differences” that are enough to end your marriage, you can end your marriage in writing and avoid much of the hassle. However, if one of you denies that the marriage is broken beyond repair or you have a child, the court may order counseling with a marriage counselor, priest or rabbi, or psychologist for up to three months.
- How to Begin
Florida divorces legally begin when you or your spouse files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the Family Department of the local circuit court. The court serves the other spouse with the paperwork and gives them time to respond. If both you and your spouse agree on how to divide property, debt and responsibilities for any children, the divorce can be finalized without a trial. Otherwise, the court will assign a time for a hearing.
Any assets and debts amassed during the marriage, referred to as “marital assets,” will be divided equitably upon divorce. Any assets you had before you got married are considered “non-marital assets” if they were kept separated from property acquired during the marriage, so you’ll most likely be able to keep them, but each case is different.
- Dividing Marital Property
Judges will divide assets equally, unless there is a basis for unequal distribution. They will consider both you and your spouse’s economic circumstances and the contributions each of you has made to the marriage (including care for children and your marital home). If one parent wants to keep the house to maintain stability for the children, that may also be a factor for unequal distribution.
Divorce laws in Florida state that a court can order alimony if it is “well-founded.” Factors the courts will look at include: the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the age and physical condition of each spouse.
If you cannot come to an agreement on timesharing arrangements or a parenting plan, the court will make a decision based what is determined to be the “best interests” of the child or children. The court will consider the moral fitness of you and your spouse as parents, your abilities to provide for the child, and the child’s desires, among other factors. Unless there is a reason that it would be detrimental to your child’s life, the court will usually grant shared time. However, in some cases, the court will assign one parent responsibility for specific aspects of the child’s welfare, such as primary residence, education or medical care.
- Child Support
Divorce laws in Florida include child support guidelines that the judge will use to determine financial responsibilities. The court looks at both parents’ incomes, the child’s health, and childcare costs in your area. The court can also set aside joint or separate assets of the parents in a trust or fund for the child’s future and education.
- Documents You Will Need
Make copies of tax returns, bank statements, mortgage documents and any other financial information possible. Take inventory of major household and family possessions and come up with a detailed household budget. This will save you time and money down the road.
Any debt incurred before the marriage is not considered while dividing debts. Like assets, the debts will be divided equitably. If you have a mortgage, the court may order both of you to split the debt and if one parent is staying in the family home, the mortgage may be restructured to make them the sole owner and borrower.
Getting divorced in Florida will change your taxes. Property transfers, taxability of alimony payments and dependency deductions for children may all affect your tax filing status. It’s important to work closely with both your accountant and lawyer to avoid making mistakes you won’t be able to fix when all is said and done.