Articles & FAQs
Is there a difference between a divorce and dissolution of marriage?
No, there is not. Florida courts and legislators officially use the term dissolution of marriage but, for all intents and purposes, it means the same thing as divorce and the terms can be used interchangeably in most circumstances.
What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?
The fact is that it doesn’t matter. Florida residents can get a divorce even if the other spouse objects. Of course, it would be much easier if you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse were on the same page. But it isn’t necessary. At the end of the day, the court should grant your petition for dissolution of marriage whether your partner agrees or not.
What do I have to prove to get a divorce?
Florida is a no-fault state. That means neither party has to prove that the other spouse did anything wrong. All you have to prove in Florida is that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that at least one spouse has been a Florida resident for 6 months before filing.
What is the difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties agree on the dissolution of their marriage and also agree on all major issues such as alimony, division of property, and timesharing in cases involving minor children. Often, the parties will sign a marital settlement agreement that lays out the terms of their agreement for the court. A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot or have not yet resolved the major issues.
How will our property be divided in a divorce?
Generally speaking, marital assets are those accrued between the date of marriage and the date that the divorce papers are filed. Marital liabilities are debts incurred during the same period. There is a presumption that marital assets and liabilities should be divided equally but in certain special circumstances the court will award one spouse an unequal distribution.
How long does the divorce process take?
Every case is different and the amount of time it takes to complete a case depends on how many issues need to be resolved. We can finalize most uncontested divorce cases in as little as ten days.
Uncontested Divorce FAQ
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties agree on the dissolution of their marriage and also agree on all major issues such as alimony, division of property, and timesharing in cases involving minor children. Often, the parties will sign a marital settlement agreement that lays out the terms of their agreement for the court. Please be sure to read our discussion on uncontested divorce in Florida.
What are some advantages of an uncontested divorce?
There are several benefits to an uncontested divorce. They are generally faster, less expensive, and more harmonious than their counterparts. They can also provide much greater stability going forward because people are usually less likely to jeopardize an agreement where both parties benefit.
How long does an uncontested divorce take?
Every case is different, so there is no hard and fast rule. However, all things being equal, our office can usually have your uncontested divorce case finalized within about three weeks.
Do I need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?
Ultimately, that decision is up to you. But we do not recommend proceeding, even uncontested, without an experienced divorce attorney at your side to protect your rights should any issues arise. At the very least, your attorney will make sure that your paperwork is prepared and filed correctly which will minimize the risk of unnecessary delays.
Can my spouse and I use the same lawyer for an uncontested divorce?
Generally speaking, a divorce attorney can only ethically represent one spouse or the other in a divorce case.
Is there a difference between alimony and spousal support?
No, there is no difference. Both alimony and spousal support can be defined as financial assistance paid by one spouse to another as maintenance. Alimony can be court-ordered or the parties can allow for it as part of a settlement agreement. For more information, please read our detailed discussion of alimony in Florida.
What is alimony in Florida based on?
There are numerous factors that determine whether alimony is awarded in a particular case. But generally speaking, the determination begins with need and ability. That is to say, the party seeking alimony must prove that he or she has a need for alimony and that the other party has the ability to pay it.
How long does alimony last?
That depends. There are several different types of alimony or spousal support including bridge-the-gap alimony, durational alimony, lump sum alimony, permanent periodic alimony, and rehabilitative alimony. Each form of alimony is designed to address a particular type of need and the lengths can vary accordingly. In other words, alimony will last as long as the court or the parties decide is necessary.
Can alimony be changed?
Yes, even permanent alimony awards can be modified. Typically, you will have to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the order awarding alimony was entered. There are other requirements. For example, the change in circumstances must be permanent, generally involuntary on the part of the party seeking a modification, and, in most cases, it cannot be a change that was foreseeable when alimony was established.
Is alimony taxable?
Yes, alimony is generally taxable to the party who receives spousal support and deductible by the party who pays. However, the parties can agree that alimony is non-taxable and non-deductible if they choose. That said, tax issues surrounding alimony can be complex. If you have questions about the tax consequences surrounding an alimony award, you should consult a qualified tax professional.
Property Division FAQ
What is equitable distribution?
Equitable distribution is the legal term for the division of property as part of a divorce. Generally speaking, it is the process of the court assigning each spouse an interest in their marital property and a percentage responsibility for the marital liabilities. It is important to note that equitable does not necessarily mean equal as the court has the authority to award one hundred percent ownership or responsibility for any item to a single spouse. For a more detailed discussion of equitable distribution, be sure to read our main discussion on property division.
What are marital assets and liabilities?
Marital assets refer to property, real or personal, that the spouses acquired during the marriage. Likewise, marital liabilities only include debts that were incurred during the marriage. It is important to remember that these assets and liabilities are presumed to be marital regardless of which spouse’s name is on the title or note.
Can the court divide property from before the marriage?
No, a divorce court has no jurisdiction to divide or distribute either party’s premarital property or debt. However, the court may have jurisdiction over any increase in the value of premarital property. Similarly, if the parties have acted in a way that converts premarital property into marital property, the court will then have the jurisdiction and the duty to distribute that property equitably. Property division is a complicated area of divorce law. You should consult an attorney if you are concerned or confused about your property rights.
Child Support FAQ
How is child support calculated?
Whether it’s a divorce case or not, child support is calculated the same way. Since both parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support to their minor child, the court calculates child support based on the parents’ combined monthly incomes and each parent’s percentage share of that combined number. Childcare costs, health insurance payments, and the frequency of overnight timesharing are also factored into the final child support obligation.
What if my spouse/partner refuses to pay court-ordered child support?
Child support in Florida is enforceable by contempt. If the other party in your case has been ordered to pay child support and refuses to do so, you can take him or her back to court by filing a motion for enforcement or contempt of the child support order. The court can punish the noncompliant party through sanctions that may include incarceration.
What if my spouse/partner doesn’t want child support from me?
It doesn’t matter. Under Florida law, child support is for the benefit of the child, not the custodial parent. The parties cannot waive it. Moreover, the court must enter a child support order in cases involving minor children.
What if I can’t afford to pay my court-ordered child support?
If you are having trouble paying court-ordered child support, you can ask the court for a modification. You will usually have to prove that there has been a substantial and permanent change in your finances or the other party’s finances since the last order was entered.
Child Custody FAQ
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility refers to the rights and responsibilities of each parent to share in the major decisions regarding the upbringing of his or her minor child. In most cases, the court will award the parties shared parental responsibility, which means that both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities and must make major decisions jointly. In some cases, the court may find that shared parental responsibility is detrimental to the minor child and may award sole parental responsibility instead.
What is timesharing?
Florida family law courts stopped using the term visitation in 2008. Now, we say timesharing. Timesharing refers to the designated time that each parent spends with his or her minor child pursuant to a court order or an agreement between the child’s parents. It is the public policy of the State of Florida that both parents have frequent and meaningful contact with their minor children.
What is a timesharing schedule?
A timesharing schedule is a written timetable that specifies the time that a minor child spends with each parent. Typically, the timesharing schedule will include designations for weekday, weekend, and holiday timesharing.
Can a timesharing schedule be changed?
Yes, Florida family law courts have continuing authority and jurisdiction to modify the terms of any timesharing schedule as long as it can be established that the modification being sought is in the best interests of the child.
What if my spouse/partner refuses to abide by the timesharing schedule?
Each parent has a duty to facilitate and encourage the minor child’s relationship with the other parent. If one parent is refusing to allow court-ordered timesharing, that parent can be held in contempt of court. Moreover, the court has the authority to compensate the parent whose timesharing has been improperly denied by awarding that parent additional “makeup” timesharing in the future.
Name Change FAQ
How do I get a name change in Florida?
Adults who wish to change their names in Florida must file a petition for a name change with the clerk of the court in the county where they reside. The petitioner is required to disclose certain biographical and personal information, as well as submit to a criminal background check. If everything is in order, a hearing can be scheduled in front of a circuit court judge who will decide whether to grant your request for a name change. For more information, please see our full discussion on how to obtain a name change in Florida.
Can my request for a name change be denied?
Yes. Generally speaking, an adult who otherwise satisfies all of the statutory requirements for a name change may choose any new name that he or she wishes. However, under some circumstances, the court may reject an application for a name change. For example, a judge may deny a request that is made to avoid a money judgment, that affects the rights of another person (such as a celebrity), is obscene, or is unduly confusing.
How long does it take to get a name change in Florida?
The amount of time it takes to finalize a name change in Florida varies somewhat from case to case. However, once the petition is filed and the background check has been completed, the hearing on the petition for name change can generally be scheduled right away. That means the amount of time it takes to finalize a name change is directly linked to amount of time it takes the petitioner to complete the application.
What should I do after my name is changed?
Once your name change application has been approved and the judge signs the order legally changing your name, it is your responsibility to notify the appropriate agencies and institutions of your new status. For example, you should notify United States Social Security Administration, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the passport office, and your bank or financial institution.
Prenuptial Agreements FAQ
What is a prenuptial agreement?
In its simplest form, a prenuptial agreement is a contract between two people who intend to be married. The general and most common purpose of the prenuptial agreement is to define the rights and duties of each prospective spouse in the event of a divorce. Usually, people enter into prenuptial agreements as a way to protect their assets. A prenuptial agreement is also sometimes called a marital agreement, a premarital agreement, or an ante-nuptial agreement. For more details, feel free to review our discussion of prenuptial agreements.
Only rich people need prenuptial agreements, right?
Wrong, and this is one of the most common misconceptions about prenuptial agreements. The fact of the matter is that most people getting married could probably benefit from entering into a prenuptial agreement that not only protects their current property rights, but also safeguards property that may be created or acquired later in the marriage.
Can a prenuptial agreement address alimony?
A prenuptial agreement can absolutely address the issue of alimony if you and your prospective spouse include an alimony clause in the contract. For example, the prenuptial agreement can state how much alimony a particular spouse will be entitled to in the event of a divorce. Or the parties can agree that there will be no alimony under any circumstances.
Can a prenuptial agreement address child support?
No. The parties to a prenuptial agreement cannot make an enforceable agreement that predetermines the amount of child support that will be awarded.
Can a prenuptial agreement address child custody?
No. The court in a divorce case has a duty to make a determination about timesharing and parental responsibility that is in the best interests of the child. As such, the parties cannot circumvent the court’s authority through a prenuptial agreement.
Can a prenuptial agreement be signed after marriage?
Yes. But it would then be called a postnuptial agreement.
Is a prenuptial agreement enforceable?
Yes. A well-drafted prenuptial agreement is completely valid and enforceable as long as certain conditions have been met. For example, a prenuptial agreement must be in writing and signed by both prospective spouses – without coercion or duress – after full disclosure of their finances. And it must be fair.
What is mediation?
Mediation is the formal process of two parties in a legal dispute trying to settle or resolve their issues outside of court with the help of a certified neutral third-party called a mediator. Please read our fuller discussion on mediation for more information on how the process works.
Is mediation required?
It depends on your judge and the type of case you have. For example, mediation is mandatory in most South Florida divorce cases. The most common exceptions to this rule are cases where there is a restraining order between the parties or a history of domestic violence. But, many judges require the parties in non-divorce cases to attend mediation, as well, before they can schedule a final hearing.
Is mediation confidential?
Yes. With some relatively rare exceptions, everything discussed at mediation is confidential and cannot be disclosed to anyone, not even the judge in your case. The thought is that people will be more flexible at mediation if they know that their settlement proposals cannot be used against them later in the proceedings.
Can a mediator give legal advice?
No. Although mediators are sometimes trained family law attorneys themselves, they cannot offer legal advice to the parties during mediation. That is the job of your attorney who will be alongside you at mediation.
Is a mediation agreement binding?
Yes. Barring extraordinary circumstances like fraud or coercion, a signed mediation agreement is binding and the parties are expected to comply with its terms.