Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the document that initiates the divorce process. The party who files the petition is called the “Petitioner” and the other party is called the “Respondent”. In Florida, there is no legal advantage to being either the Petitioner or the Respondent. There are only two grounds for divorce in Florida: (1) the marriage is irretrievably broken; or (2) one of the parties has been adjudicated mentally incapacitated. To read the entire Florida Statute pertaining specifically to dissolution of marriage, click here.
Division of Property
Florida, like most states, is an equitable distribution state when it comes to the division of property (assets and liabilities). The first step in deciding equitable distribution issues is determining whether the specific property is marital versus non-marital. When it comes to marital property, the courts start with the presumption that a 50/50 split is equitable, but may deviate based on the circumstances of the particular case. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to, the overall contribution to the marriage by each spouse, the economic circumstances of each spouse and the duration of the marriage. To read the entire Florida Statute pertaining specifically to equitable distribution, click here.
Retirement Benefits and Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, is a court order that grants a party a right to a portion of the retirement benefits his or her spouse has earned through participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Pursuant to Federal Law, a QDRO is required to divide retirement benefits between former spouses. While the Final Judgment of divorce may include language referencing a QDRO, a QDRO is actual separate Order. It is not necessary that the QDRO actually be completed in order to obtain the actual Final Judgment of divorce; however, it will be necessary to effectuate the division of retirement benefits as provided in the Final Judgment. Preparation of QDROs in a highly specialized area of law and there are attorneys whose entire practice focuses on the preparation of QDROs. At The Bayhi Law Firm PLLC, we do not offer QDRO services, but are happy to refer you to a qualified QDRO attorney upon request. To read more about Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, click here.
The purpose of alimony, or spousal support, is to “level the playing field” when there is a significant income disparity between the parties to a divorce. The party asking for alimony must prove that he or she needs financial support and that the other party has the ability to provide financial support. If one party has a need for financial support, but the other party does not have the ability to pay, alimony will not be awarded. Likewise, if one party has the ability to pay alimony, but the other party cannot show a need, alimony will not be awarded. In cases where both “need” and “ability” are present, the court then looks to other factors, such as the duration of the marriage and standard living established during the marriage, to determine the type and amount of alimony to be awarded. Florida recognizes several types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, permanent, and lump sum. To read the entire Florida Statute pertaining specifically to alimony, click here.
In Florida, both parents are required to provide financial support for their children. Contrary to some common misconceptions, child support may not be waived by the parties. That is because child support is a right that belongs to the child, not the parent. Child support is calculated using a pretty straightforward formula that takes into account factors such as the income of both parties, the number of children between the parties, and the number of overnights the children spend with each parent. The parent who pays for the children’s health insurance or childcare may also be given a credit for same in the child support calculation. The courts only have discretion to deviate five percent (5%) from the child support amount provided by the formula. Any further deviation requires that good cause be shown, and will be at the discretion of the court. To read the entire Florida Statute pertaining specifically to the calculation of child support, click here.
A parenting plan, or custody agreement, is the document that sets forth how you and the other parent will continue to parent your children after a divorce. It addresses factors such as parental responsibility and time sharing (custody), as well as logistical procedures for carrying out its requirements. A well-drafted parenting plan will be flexible to ensure that all issues unique to each family area addressed, but also thorough and comprehensive to avoid any future conflicts down the road. Further, “[i]t is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved … There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule.” Florida Statute Section 61.13(2)(c)(1). To read the entire Florida Statute pertaining specifically to parenting plans, click here.
In cases involving minor children, both parties are required to attend a parenting class called a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. These classes are four (4) hours long and typically cost in the range of $20. Once you complete the class, they will forward you a Certificate of Completion which needs to be filed with the court prior to a Final Judgment being entered, or Final Hearing being scheduled (if applicable). To see a list of DCF-approved online parenting classes, click here.