Divorce Laws in Florida
Divorce in Florida is guided by a section of the Florida Statutes called Chapter 61. That statute guides most, if not all divorce issues – including parenting time, alimony, child support, division of assets, and entitlement to attorney fees.
A Florida divorce court will normally consider all involved issues in a certain order. Attorneys remember the priority of issues by thinking of an acronym known as PEACE
P – Parenting issues (custody, time-sharing, school, medical, etc)
Parenting issues involve decisions on the children such as: where they will sleep, where they go to school, doctors, religion, transportation. Think of parenting issues as everything a child does on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual bases. When children are involved in a divorce case parenting decisions have priority. That is why we show parenting at the top of the list.
E – Equitable Distribution (division of assets and debts)
This is the system we use in Florida for figuring out who gets what – and who owes what. Florida uses a system called equitable distribution as opposed to a community property state. All that means is that we use standard starting points for division and then apply various exceptions to make things “fair”.
A – Alimony
All the different forms of alimony are considered if a divorce case supports an alimony claim. Some different types are permanent periodic, durational, bridge the gap, and rehabilitative alimony.
C – Child Support
Child support is next in line because alimony may reduce or increase the amount of income a parent has available. The incomes used to calculate child support are net income plus or minus alimony.
E – Everything else (all remaining issues, including attorney fees)
There are always lots of other issues connected with a Florida divorce case. One really big, contentious issue is entitlement to attorney fees. In a Florida divorce case the judge has jurisdiction over many different issues and the ability to impose an all encompassing solution.
The steps to a divorce are pretty much the same in every family law court throughout Florida. Most of the common steps are laid out in statute. But each particular jurisdiction and each family law judge institute slight variations. The variations in divorce case procedure are commonly intended to increase efficiency. One common example is the Case Management Conference (CMC). CMCs are used in some jurisdictions to allow the judge to “nudge” the case forward if it is stuck. They take the form of short, 15 minute hearings to allow the judge a look into the case. But CMCs are not used by all family law courts.
Divorce law is initially spelled out in Florida Statute 61. But the various situations encountered in family law court are too numerous for the statutes to cover. That is why we have a system in Florida called common law. That is a system where years of court decisions slowly fill in the gaps unaddressed by the divorce statutes. What that means is that attorneys must research case law before hearings to see what previous decisions have established.