- Can I get legally separated in Florida?
No. There is no legal separation in Florida.
- How much will litigation cost?
The costs of litigation will vary for each case. Attorneys’ fees are paid up front. The retainer that is requested depends on the complexity of the case and is based on an estimate of how many hours it will take to reach our goal. The attorneys’ fees are billed at an hourly rate. If your case is complex and will take longer, it will cost more money. Other costs are also important. For example, other professionals may be asked to assist with your case, such as an Accountant, Mediator, a Parenting Coordinator, a Guardian ad Litem, or an expert. These individuals’ fees are separate from and in addition to the cost of the attorney. There are also additional costs associated with your case, such as a filing fee, which is charged by the Clerk of Court to file your case, and the cost of the court reporter for a deposition or attendance at a hearing. Litigation is an expensive process and the cost of litigation must be a factor in how you choose to proceed with your case.
- How long will it take?
The amount of time it will take depends on the type of case that you have and whether or not you are able to resolve the case without going to trial. Most cases resolve prior to trial and many resolve at mediation. If your case resolves at mediation, it should take six(6) months to a year to complete. If your case goes to trial, it can take over a year, if not longer.
- How will the assets and debts of the marriage be divided?
First, we need to determine which assets and liabilities will be divided. Only those assets and liabilities that are marital property will be divided. Marital property is any asset or liability obtained or incurred from the date of the marriage to the date of the filing of the petition for dissolution, regardless of whose name it is in. Next, we need to determine the value of the asset or the amount of the debt. Lastly, the marital assets and marital liabilities are divided between the spouses. The court will work to make an equal distribution of the assets and liabilities, with some limited exceptions.
- Can my spouse get assets that are in my name?
Yes. Title or ownership of an asset is not what the court looks to. Instead, it is about when the asset was acquired. If it is in your name only, but was acquired during the marriage, it will likely be considered a marital asset that is subject to distribution.
- Can my spouse get to assets I have received as an inheritance?
Maybe. Inheritance is considered a non-marital asset. However, if the asset has been commingled with a marital asset, then it is subject to distribution. For example, if you received cash inheritance and put it in a bank account that is a marital asset, then it would be subject to distribution. To the contrary, though, if you received a cash inheritance and put it in a separate account, you may be able to avoid distribution of that asset.
- Will all of our assets be sold and the proceeds split?
Typically no. The court will work to maintain an asset rather than deplete it. Assets will likely be distributed based on their value with each spouse receiving assets worth approximately one half of the overall value.
- Will I have to pay my spouse alimony?
Maybe. Entitlement to alimony is based upon the length of the marriage. The longer your marriage, the more likely it is that your spouse may be entitled to some form of alimony.
- If I have to pay alimony, how much will I have to pay?
The amount of alimony you would have to pay, if you are ordered to pay alimony, will depend on your spouse’s need for the alimony and your ability to pay that necessary alimony. The amount of alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis and the court has a wide range of factors in determining the amount of alimony to be paid.
- If I have to pay alimony, how long will I have to pay it?
The duration of the alimony will depend on the length of your marriage. The longer your marriage, the longer you may be obligated to pay alimony. Currently, unless you have a long-term marriage (over 17 years), you most likely would not be required to pay alimony to your spouse “permanently” (until he/she dies or remarries). In many cases you will be required to pay alimony for a set period of years, depending upon the length of your marriage.
- How long have I been married?
The length of your marriage is determined from the date of your marriage until the date of the filing of the petition for dissolution/divorce. If you have been married less than seven(7) years, it is considered a short-term marriage. If you have been married longer than seven(7) years, but less than seventeen(17) years, it is considered a moderate-term marriage. Marriages that are longer than seventeen(17) years are considered long-term marriages.
- What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is a court-ordered relationship between the parents. In most cases, you have what is called “shared parental responsibility.” This means that the parents are expected to share in the decision-making for the child’s major life decisions, such as education, health, religion, and the like. Parental responsibility may also be sole, which means that one parent is permitted to make major life decisions without consulting with the other parent. Sole parental responsibility is not typically ordered and requires a showing to the court that shared parental responsibility is not in the child’s best interest. There is also a hybrid relationship, which is known as shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority. This means that the parents must attempt to come together on the child’s major life decisions, but, if they disagree, one parent’s choice will prevail.
- Does the mother have more rights to the child?
No. In Florida, both parents are legally entitled to parent their child . Neither parent, the mother nor the father, have a superior right to parent their child.
- Can I get full custody or sole custody of the children?
No. There is no such thing as “custody” in the State of Florida. Instead, the court will rule on parental responsibility (a parent’s ability to partake in the child’s major life decisions) and time-share (the amount of time the child will spend with each parent).
- Where will my child live?
A contact and access schedule will be agreed to or ordered by the court and included in a “Parenting Plan.” This Plan determines how much time the child spends with each parent. One parent’s residence will also be designated for school purposes. This determination only dictates where the child may attend school and it does not in any way limit a parent’s right to his/her child. The court no longer considers either parent’s home a primary residence and instead looks at which parent’s home the child will sleep at on particular days.
- How much will each parent see their child?
That depends. A contact and access schedule will be agreed to or ordered by the court and it will include a “Parenting Plan.” This Plan determines how much time the child spends with each parent. Most recently, the courts are leaning towards schedules that provide each parent an equal amount of time with the children.
- Will I have to pay child support and, if so, how much?
Child support is calculated pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines, which is a mathematical calculation provided by statute. The calculation considers the parents’ relative net income, the number of child in common, and the cost of health insurance and day care. The amount of child support will depend on the parents’ income and the amount of overnight contact each parent enjoys with the child.
- How will child support be paid?
Child support is typically paid through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) and more often than not by an Income Withholding Order. This is not a punishment to the paying parent, but instead provides them with ease of payment and proper accounting for each payment made. The State Disbursement Unit maintains records of all payments made, making it harder for your ex to claim you missed a payment. An Income Withholding Order requires the payor’s employer to withhold the amount of support from his or her pay check. This makes it easier for the payor in that he/she does not have to concern themselves with writing a check and ensuring that the other parent receives the child support.
- Can I move with my child?
Possibly. Relocation with a minor child is governed by statute. You may be permitted to relocate with the child if the other parent agrees or if the relocation is granted after petitioning the court. A petition for relocation is difficult to win and there are many factors that the court will consider. However, the crux of the petition will depend on the court’s consideration of the best interests of the child.
- Can I travel with the child during my time with him/her?
You may travel with your child during your time with him/her if the other parent agrees or, absent this agreement, if you obtain an order from the court.
- How will my child be covered by health insurance?
Health insurance should be provided for all children and parents should work to obtain the best coverage available for the child. The cost of the health insurance for the child will be considered in calculating the amount of child support. The court will also determine each parent’s contribution to uncovered medical expenses, such as co-payments, deductibles, and uncovered medical expenses, such as braces.
- Can I talk to my child while he/she is with the other parent?
Yes. Communication with your child while he/she is with the other parent will be addressed by the Parenting Plan. You can ask to communicate with him/her by any available means, whether it be by telephone, text messaging, video messaging, or the like.
- Do I have to pay for my child’s education?
No, not unless you agree to pay for it. Private school education is voluntary and you will not be ordered by a court to take on this expense. You can agree to pay all or a portion of this expense, if you choose.
- Do I have to pay for my child’s college expenses?
No, not unless you agree to pay for it. College education is incurred after the child reaches the age of maturity. You will be required to pay child support until the child reaches 18 or graduates from high school. (In rare instances, you may be required to pay for a longer period of time.) Paying for a child’s college is voluntary and you will not be ordered by a court to take on this expense. You can agree to pay all or a portion of this expense, if you choose.
- The Department of Revenue is trying to collect child support and has taken my drivers license. Is that legal?
Yes. The Department of Revenue is a state agency that can initiate an action for child support on its own or at the request of a parent. If the Department gets involved, they are a party to the action, which means they must be involved in the resolution of the issue of child support. If the Department has taken action to collect, such as suspending your drivers license, you can ask the court to reinstate your license. However, this reinstatement is within the court’s discretion and is not always granted.