If you are looking for a divorce attorney in Fort Lauderdale who will support and defend you through every step of the way, then look no further than the team at Friedland & Associates. Divorces can be complicated and stressful, but when you are working with an attorney who is experienced, dedicated, and ready to fight for your best interests during this time in your life, you can rest assured that your rights are protected.
Read more below about some of the overview issues of divorce in Florida, and contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation. During your initial call, you will be able to speak with an experienced legal professional about the basics of your divorce, discuss some of the main questions you have, and most importantly, understand how we will work with you throughout the entire process.
Preparing For a Divorce
Once you have decided that you will file for a divorce, there are some important steps to take in order to ensure that you can begin the process smoothly. In many cases, this may mean that you will need to secure a place to live after you tell your partner that you are filing for a divorce, and having a plan for how you will move forward after this first step.
Even though it may not be surprising to your partner that you would like to separate, it will likely come as an initial shock. It is important that you remain civil with your partner throughout this entire process if possible because it is repeatedly shown that collaborative divorces are much smoother than contentious and combative divorces, and the first step you take towards this process may be a good place to begin with this attitude. Regardless, make sure that you have a plan for when you tell your partner that you are separating from them, and will be working towards a divorce.
If you are in a dangerous situation for you or your children, though, then the most immediate thing that you need to focus on is getting to safety. Florida, like all states, has a domestic violence hotline and many resources for victims of violent or dangerous situations. If you believe that telling your partner that you want a divorce will create a dangerous environment, then it is important that you utilize these resources and speak with an attorney before making any declarations, so that you can ensure that you and any children that may be involved in the marriage are safe and secure from possible violence.
Grounds For Divorce
Florida is what is known as a “no-fault” state, meaning that you do not need to prove that your partner has done something to make the marriage irreparable. In order to be allowed to proceed with a divorce, you must simply show that the relationship is beyond repair. Keep in mind that this does not mean that you will need to present the courts with proof that you have undergone extensive marriage counseling or something like this, but that your relationship is simply no longer tenable.
Filing For Divorce in Florida
To file for divorce in Florida, you will submit a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to the Florida family courts, at which point your spouse must be notified that this petition has been filed. Once you have filed, your spouse has 20 days to respond to the petition, and either agree or disagree with your request to proceed with a divorce. In some cases, you may be able to request that this waiting period is waived because of possible danger or another injustice that may arise.
If your spouse does not respond within the allotted 20 days, then you will be able to file for a Motion for Default, at which point you will be able to set your own date for a hearing, at which point your spouse will need to be issued a Notice of Hearing.
If you and your spouse agree on all points of the divorce, then you may be able to file for a simplified dissolution. This means that you and your spouse both agree that your marriage is beyond repair, there are no dependent children involved in the marriage or divorce, you agree completely on the division of all property and assets, there is no issue of alimony, no other financial issues, and that you each agree to forgo a trial. If this is the case, then you may each be able to go to the Broward Clerks Office and sign your petition and then attend your final hearing. This is the best possible case for a divorce, but it is uncommon.
Options For Divorce
If you are unable to reach complete consensus on all of the aspects of your divorce, then you will not be able to opt for a simplified dissolution — at least not immediately. There are a few different ways that we will work with you, your spouse, and their legal counsel in order to find the path of least resistance while getting you what you deserve through this process. A trial will be our last resort, and if at all possible, we will be able to avoid a trial altogether by choosing one of the following methods that we will be happy to represent you through.
Mediation is a highly favorable option for working through the different aspects of a divorce for a variety of reasons. Mediation involves you, your spouse, and a third party mediator who helps you navigate the complicated, sometimes contentious, issues such as debt and asset division, child custody, and more.
Mediation is a very favorable option for agreeing with the various terms of your divorce because it forces collaboration and civility, which is supported by the mediator who is simply there to help you each arrive at an agreement. It is much less contentious than direct negotiations with each partner having a lawyer present, because it focuses on what is fair and reasonable, as opposed to each partner trying to maximize what they get out of the divorce.
If mediation does not seem like a viable option for you, then the next possibility would be a negotiation between you and your attorney, and your spouse and their attorney. While this process may not be as collaborative as mediation, it is still a more cost-effective and expedited process than a full trial. In addition, you and your spouse still retain full control over the decisions about your assets, debts, properties, and children, as opposed to leaving these decisions up to the Florida court system.
Although direct negotiation can be difficult, we will always prefer this option over a full trial. Through mediation or direct negotiation, both you and your partner will need to understand that this will take some compromise, but know that by choosing this method you will be able to determine the outcomes on your own.
Florida Divorce Trial
If mediation or direct negotiations either fail or are not an option, then we will need to take your divorce to the Florida family courts for a full trial. During this process, we will present our arguments and facts to the judge, who will then decide upon each of the issues that must be resolved in order to finalize your divorce. This process can be costly and time-consuming since the scheduled times are determined by the courts and because you will need to pay court fees.
If this is the option we must choose, then you will need to adjust your work schedule around your court dates, since each postponement will only draw your divorce proceedings out longer and longer.
Issues To Settle For a Divorce
In order to finalize your divorce, there are a variety of issues that you and your spouse will need to settle, either directly or by a court ruling.
Marital and Non-Marital Assets
The first step is to determine which assets are marital and non-marital. Non-marital assets are those that a spouse brought into the marriage, did not mix, and is entirely separate from anything in the marriage. This can include things like inheritances, gifts, and even financial assets that one spouse had before the marriage, and never added their spouse to the deeds.
Marital assets are things like property purchased during the marriage, including real estate, vehicles, boats, and anything else of the sort. Additionally, it refers to income earned during the marriage, debts accrued, and any other asset or debt that was incurred during the marriage.
Nonmarital assets will be excluded from the divorce process, given that the owner of these assets can prove that they never mixed this asset with their marital property. This would include using the interest from a nonmarital fund to pay for property taxes on marital assets, and others of the sort. This can be a complicated process, so it is important that you share all of your available documents with your attorney as soon as possible so that they can begin to formulate a strategy.
If there is marital property involved in the divorce, then you and your spouse will need to determine a fair way to divide this asset. Florida is what is known as an “equitable division” state, meaning that all debts and assets are divided among spouses in a way that is equitable. However, equitable does not mean 50/50, only that each spouse is awarded an amount that is equitable given all of the different factors such as income, non-marital assets, and more.
Asset and Debt Division
Assets and debts that are determined to be marital property also must be divided equitably. Like property, this does not mean that all assets and debts are divided 50/50, but that they are each awarded to the spouses in a way that is equitable given their independent financial situations.
If there are minor children involved in the divorce, then another very important issue that will need to be settled is the question of custody. There are a variety of different options available, all of which depend on the main concern of childhood welfare. Regardless of what a parent wants for their involvement with the child or children, the courts will need to determine that it is in the child’s best interest before agreeing to it.
Custody is granted as either sole or joint. Sole custody means that only one parent has absolute custody over the child or children, and joint means that the responsibilities are shared. In addition to the possibilities of joint or sole custody, there are two different forms of custody.
Physical custody refers to where the child actually lives. In the case of joint physical custody, the child will split their time between living with each parent. If one parent is awarded sole physical custody, this means that the child or children will live with that parent full-time. There may or may not be visitation allowances for the non-custodial parent depending on what the court has determined is in the best interest of the children.
Legal custody refers to the decisions that are made regarding the child’s welfare, such as medical, educational, religious, or disciplinary options. If the parents have joint legal custody, then they will need to collaborate to come to the decisions about the child’s legal issues. However, if a parent has sole legal custody, then they will not need to consult with the other parent.
It is possible for a parent to have sole legal custody, but joint physical custody of their children.
In addition to custody, the issue of child support will need to be determined as well. Oftentimes, one parent will have more earning capacity than the other. In a divorce, it is important that the children of the divorce do not suffer financially because of this separation. Child support ensures that each parent is contributing a fair amount to the children, which may mean a disproportionate amount of money depending on the type of custody that is awarded, as well as each parent’s independent financial situation.
Alimony is intended to provide a spouse with financial support for a set period of time after the marriage. Alimony is a great option in that it helps a spouse get accustomed to their new, single life without fear of complete financial ruin. Alimony is awarded for a certain length of time after the divorce, and there are many different forms that this agreement can take depending on the finances of each spouse.
Contact Us Today
One of the most important things that you can do while preparing for a divorce is to partner with an experienced divorce attorney in Fort Lauderdale. We understand that this is a stressful time in your life, and will work our hardest to make sure that we are handling the legal details in a way that will give you space to begin working on establishing your new life and your independence after your marriage has been dissolved.