Although Valentine’s Day comes around once a year, divorces are year-round. If you and your spouse are considering or in the middle of filing for divorce it is important to understand what lies ahead for you both. This post aims at summarizing the nuts and bolts of a divorce proceeding in Florida. With that, your main focus will revolve around equitable distribution, alimony, and, if applicable, child support and custody.
Starting with equitable distribution, you should remember that words like “equitable” may not always align with your common, everyday usage of the term. In Florida, equitable distribution favors what is fair, and not necessarily what is equal. When it comes to distribution, get familiar with two categories: marital and nonmarital. These are how your assets and liabilities will be categorized and divided amongst you and your spouse. Commonly, marital assets include assets earned and acquired with marital earnings during the term of the marriage, and many times include retirement accounts. Non-marital assets are those assets that were acquired either before the marriage and never comingled with marital funds, or assets that were acquired during a marriage from a non-marital source and never comingled with marital funds, such as an inheritance. Factors are everything in family law, so the court will weigh a variety of factors to determine the nature of assets and liabilities and determine the division thereof.
Moving to alimony, the court’s decision will revolve around each spouse’s economic circumstance and is based on two main factors: need and ability to pay. There are various types of alimony that are dependent on the facts of each case, including ages, financial resources, contributions, and duration of the marriage. Essentially, alimony is a chameleon to whatever the given marriage consisted of, and it can range from temporary to permanent.
Lastly, if you are getting a divorce and have children, the decisions regarding custody and child support will likely take center stage. The best interest of the children is the polestar in determining a child’s residency and timesharing schedules, and the factors set forth in Section 61. 13 (3), Florida Statutes, outlines the court’s focus in determining a permanent parenting plan. Child support is governed by statute and considers each parent’s income, allowable deductions, and the timesharing schedule.
Wading through this maze without legal representation is not recommended. The decisions you make will impact you the rest of your life.