Florida Divorce Law
Deciding to end a marriage is an emotionally trying time that can quickly become complicated when dealing with issues such as custody of children and division of assets. In Florida, divorce is referred to as a “Dissolution of Marriage” and the attorneys at LaFrance Law can guide you through the process with care and consideration. In Tampa, and throughout Florida, you can apply for a “no-fault” divorce, which means that the traditional grounds for divorce, such as adultery, are not required to file for a Dissolution of Marriage. Although neither party needs to be at fault to petition for divorce, fault can still play a role in determining the division of marital assets and liabilities, parental responsibility and custody resolution.
Most divorces in Florida can be handled in one of two ways: uncontested or contested.
The preferred way for many to dissolve a marriage in Florida is the uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree upon all issues involved in the Dissolution of the Marriage. This type of divorce is generally less expensive, involves fewer court appearances and can be a much less stressful process. Overall an uncontested divorce is meant to be a collaborative process.
During the process of an uncontested divorce, both parties and their lawyers come together to disclose all relevant and material information in a good faith effort. Once you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues a Marital Settlement Agreement and Parenting Plan is prepared and presented to the Florida Court System for ratification and to officially dissolve the marriage.
If during the collaborative, uncontested divorce process neither party is able to agree then the process must be restarted and classified as a contested divorce.
A contested divorce occurs when both parties cannot come to terms with an impending divorce or certain issues involved. The process starts with a petition for the Dissolution of Marriage filed with the Florida Courts requesting a divorce while outlining any support or relief you would like. After the paperwork has been filed, your spouse has twenty (20) days to respond and file a counter-petition. Once the petition for divorce has been filed both parties have an average of forty-five (45) days to provide a financial affidavit and child support guideline worksheet to the courts.
If you and your spouse are struggling to resolve various issues of the divorce, a mediation will be arranged to assist in resolving the case without the need for a trial. Fortunately, in Tampa, there is an array of court-connected mediation services that can be utilized. Mediation services are used to find end-of-marriage solutions that work for both parties but are not meant to be used as a last resort to save a marriage.
Any remaining, unresolved, issues will be determined by a judge at trial. You and your lawyer will be given the opportunity to present evidence and testimonials to the judge to determine the best course of action. If you are able to resolve all issues through mediation the case will become uncontested and a trial will not be necessary.
An additional factor to consider before filing for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Florida is that at least one person in the marriage must be a Florida resident for at least six months, while members of the military may either live or be stationed in Florida.
Main concerns for many during the divorce process include the welfare of any children and a fair and equitable division of assets and debts. In Florida, the generally accepted policy is to provide children with frequent, continued contact with both parents while encouraging them to work together in regards to any minor children. You and your spouse are financially responsible for any minor children. Child support terms are also determined during parenting plan deliberations.
Asset and debt division is often one of the most complicated parts of a divorce. Assets are physical items like cars and houses as well as retirement benefits and bank accounts. Debts and liabilities are the items that you and your spouse still have a balance on such as car loans and credit cards. After the division of assets, you may be able to request alimony support to help with the transition from marriage to your new single life. There are multiple types of alimony awards that can be short or long term depending on your unique needs.
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In some occasions, a marriage can be eligible for a “Simple Dissolution of Marriage”. This occurs when both parties agree their marriage is irretrievably broken, there are no children, assets have already been divided and neither person is seeking alimony. It is not necessary to have a lawyer for a simplified marriage but is recommended to ensure that all paperwork is properly completed and filed to prevent delays and additional costs.
When looking for an experienced attorney in Tampa, Florida, look no further than LaFrance Law. Contact us via the form on the sidebar or give us a call at (813) 930-5542 for a consultation and guidance through the divorce process.