Questions About Divorce
Do I need my own attorney?
You are not required to have an attorney for divorce, child custody, support enforcement, or any other type of court procedure. Florida law allows you to act as your own attorney.
The Divorce Center offers options for people on a budget or that want to act as their own attorney. Our easysavr legal service allows you to purchase custom prepared court forms for the price of a paralegal service but still provides the benefit of attorney consultation.
We also offer Partial Representation. This allows you to hire use for one small part of your divorce. We can appear for you at one hearing, prepare a complex court filing, or step in when you are unsure what to do next.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
There are many factors that affect the time needed for a divorce. The most important factors are:
Whether it is a contested divorce – if you and your spouse agree on all issues, the typical divorce could be complete in as little as 3 months
The amount of property and if there are children. More property and the presence of children increases the complexity and the amount of issues you and your spouse must agree on. Again, if all issues are uncontested, the divorce can be complete in as little as 3 months.
A contested divorce can take as long as 18 months. Some bitterly contested divorces take years. You and your spouse have complete control over the length of time it takes, depending on your desire and willingness to put this part of your life behind you.
Another important factor is where the divorce is filed. Time delays are greater for Pasco County and shorter for Pinellas County. You must file your divorce where either spouse resides or the location of the marital home.
Who Gets the House?
The house is up for grabs – equally to both spouses. But the situation changes if there are minor children. A strong preference of the courts is to allow minor children to remain in the marital home. In practical terms that means whoever gets custody gets the house.
How Do I Get a Domestic Violence Injunction?
You must go to the local courthouse and see the clerk of court. The clerk will give you a document to fill out, called a Petition for and Injunction Against Domestic Violence. A Judge will look at your petition within the next few hours and sign it if you are actually in danger. After the Judge’s signature, the Domestic Violence Injunction is active. The court will schedule a hearing two weeks in the future. You must attend that hearing if you wish the Injunction to remain in effect. The person whom the Injunction is against gets a chance to appear and fight the injunction.
Who gets alimony and why?
Alimony is difficult to predict. While there are no exact guidelines for alimony in Florida law, the law list factors a judge must consider.
The most important issues the court will consider are:
The lifestyle the couple had prior to the divorce. If possible, a court will divide assets and future income in a way that allows both spouses to continue their lifestyle.
The length of the marriage. If the marriage is under 7 years, it is considered short term and alimony is much less likely. A marriage over 14 years will normally justify alimony. Marriages that lasted between the two numbers can go either way. The length of the marriage is only one issue. The judge will consider all of the issues before deciding.
The ability of one spouse to pay money and the need of the other spouse. The court will look at your ability to work, whether you worked in the past, and how much you earned. Other issues may be important such as special needs of children and if those needs interfere with work. The court will also look to see if you purposely became unemployed or are earning less due to your own lack of effort.
The amount of property to be divided. If a spouse gets a significant settlement that provides enough money to support their lifestyle, the possibility of alimony is reduced.
Men versus women: Contrary to popular opinion, there is no legal preference if you are a man or woman. Either spouse can seek alimony. Courts are supposed to make decisions without regard to gender. But as you know, reality frequently conflicts with the rules. The bottom line, women still receive some preference for alimony.
Do Moms always get child custody?
Times have changed and a divorcing mom should not take child custody as a sure thing. Many fathers have successfully won child custody. You must make a convincing case that you are the best and most fit guardian of the children. Be sure to read all about child custody in our education center. To win child custody, you must make a strong showing in all of the important factors a court uses to decide.
How much child support will I get or pay?
Child support is based on a chart, published by the state. The courts have some leeway. But in practice, child support is a predictable number that can be calculated by either party. The final number is based on the income of both spouses and who is the primary residential parent (primary custody). See our self help center for more information on child support.
I am already separated, what are my rights?
Whether you plan to get a divorce or have no such plans, you can petition the court for temporary alimony and child support.
My spouse stopped paying child support!
Florida has strong legal mechanisms for enforcing child support. The enforcing spouse must file a motion to place the non-paying party in contempt of court. After a court grants this motion, a variety of enforcement tools are available. Some enforcement measures include jail, suspension of driver licenses, and suspension of professional or trade licenses.
Spouse committed Adultery!
Although Adultery is mentioned in the Florida Divorce Law Statutes, many courts do not consider Adultery as an issue. If you were the victim of adultery, you must be prepared to show the Adultery caused a wrongful financial loss to the marriage. Many times Adultery results in marital funds spent on a third party. If this is the case, you should be prepared to show this in court.
What about Father’s child custody rights?
In past times it was very difficult for a father to win custody of the children. Florida had a principle called the “tender years doctrine.” During the tender years of a child (early years) the mother was presumed to be the best caretaker of the children. But the tender years doctrine has been eliminated. Now, a father has equal rights to seek custody of the children.
Can I get a legal separation?
Unlike many other states, Florida has no statutes about legal separation. Florida does recognize the duty to support children when spouses are separated. In limited instances, the Florida courts recognize a duty of spousal support. But spousal support is difficult to get unless connected with a divorce. If you are thinking about legal separation in Florida, consider getting a divorce. This will provide you with a more complete solution to your money issues.