The Divorce Process in Florida

Going through a divorce is difficult, especially when minor children are involved. The lasting repercussions can weigh heavily on the entire family. How will the marital property be divided? Will the family home remain intact? Which parent will have primary custody of the children. The best way to navigate the divorce process in Florida is to consult the trustworthy attorneys at Orlando Family Team. When you partner with us, we will offer you knowledge, compassion and a supportive environment in which to make the best decisions for yourself, your family and your future. 

Is divorce a good option for me?

No one gets married with the intent of getting divorced, but some marriages are not meant to go the distance. There are numerous reasons to end a marriage — infidelity, financial problems, lack of intimacy, abuse, drug or alcohol problems. At times, a couple may simply have grown apart. Often, one spouse initiates the divorce, while the other wants to preserve the marriage. 

Nonetheless, it is important to note that Florida is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the basic requirement for getting a divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Regardless of the reasons, deciding whether to divorce is a serious consideration that will bring up difficult emotions. It is crucial to be able to manage feelings of confusion, guilt, and anger so that you will be able to make critical decisions as you go through the divorce process. Moreover, it is essential to consider all of your options. If both spouses agree on ending a marriage, an uncontested divorce — one in which the spouses agree on the major issues such as the division of marital property, spousal support and the like — may be the best course of action. 

In a contested divorce, on the other hand, Florida law requires the couple to go through a mandatory mediation process designed to help the parties come to an agreement on the key issues of the divorce. If the couple cannot resolve their issues through mediation, then the divorce must be litigated.

Finally, you must also be prepared for the financial impact of divorce. In a marriage with two wage earners, for example, a divorce means that the financial partnership will also be terminated. You may wonder if you will be able to adapt to your new lifestyle. Similarly, in cases in which one spouse may have left a career to raise a family, that person must have sufficient skills and training to earn a living. 

Once the decision has been made to divorce, it is crucial to have proper legal representation. This is where Orlando Family Team comes in. We will offer you dependable advice and objective insights while working tirelessly to protect your interests.

What is the divorce rate in Florida?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013-2017 Community Survey, the divorce rate in Florida is 12.9 percent, compared to the overall U.S. divorce rate of 10.9 percent. Cities with the highest  divorce rates in Florida are:

  1. South Pasadena
  2. Cape Canaveral 
  3. Orange City
  4. West Miami
  5. Bay Harbor Islands
  6. Holly Hill
  7. Gulfport
  8. Vero Beach
  9. Tequesta
  10. Stuart

If you live in the Central Florida area, you can count on Orlando Family Team to guide you through the divorce process so that you can look forward to a brighter tomorrow.

What to Look for in Hiring a Divorce Attorney

The best way to protect your interests in a divorce is to hire the right attorney. If you are ending a long-term marriage with significant assets, for example, you need a lawyer experienced in handling high net-worth divorce cases. Similarly, a divorce involving minor children requires a lawyer who is well-versed in Florida’s child custody laws and the state’s formula for determining child support. 

Moreover, your attorney should practice primarily in the field of family law; and if there are special circumstances (e.g. you are in the military or you are in a same sex-sex marriage), you need an attorney who has experience handling such cases. Your divorce attorney should also have extensive experience handling divorce cases in your geographical location and be familiar with recent court rulings in your jurisdiction. An experienced divorce lawyer will also be able to tell you what to expect from the judge who is handling your case.

Another way to decide which divorce attorney to hire is to ask former clients about their experience or search the internet for attorney rankings on sites such as Avvo.com. You should also contact the bar association to make sure the attorney is in good standing and to see if any former clients have filed complaints.

What matters most is your comfort level with the attorney and his or her ability to communicate with you. Unlike other legal matters, a divorce involves some of your most personal issues which makes it critically important to have an attorney you can trust. When you consult Orlando Family Team, you will have confidence, knowing that our divorce attorneys will listen to your concerns without judgment and help you find solutions that work for you and your family.

What is the first step in a Florida divorce?

To initiate the divorce process in Florida, one spouse who meets the state’s residency requirement needs to file a legal petition asking the court to dissolve the marriage. The petition must include a legal reason for the divorce — such as irretrievable breakdown of the marriage — and any other required information. 

After the divorce petition is filed, a copy must be provided to your spouse and proof of service filed with the court. Your spouse (the “respondent”) must file an answer to the petition within 20 days of receiving it. Failure to respond may result in a “default” judgment.  You should be aware that in a fault divorce, the responding party can dispute the grounds for divorce or raise objections to any divorce-related issues (e.g. division of property, spousal support, child custody).

Leading Reasons for Divorce in Florida

Although divorce is complicated and each case has its own set of circumstances, the top reasons for divorce include: 

  • Lack of commitment
  • Too much arguing
  • Infidelity
  • Marrying too young
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of equality
  • Lack of preparation for marriage
  • Abuse

If you are considering divorce, you need the first-rate representation and caring, efficient service Orlando Family Team can provide. We will take the time to explain the divorce process in Florida, consider all of your options and work to protect your interests.

What Decisions Need To Be Made in a Florida Divorce

Navigating a divorce requires resolving a number of key issues. These include:

  • Division of Marital Property — Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the marital property must be divided in a way that is fair to both parties. This does not mean an equal 50-50 split, however. Marital property includes real estate, bank accounts, debts, investments, retirement accounts, and closely-held businesses. If the parties cannot agree, or there is no legally binding prenuptial agreement in place, the court will decide how to divide the marital property equitably.
  • Spousal Support — Although spousal support is not guaranteed, either party may be required to pay some form of support to the other spouse. If the parties cannot agree, the court will make a spousal support determination based on factors such as the earning capacity of the spouse seeking support and the other party’s ability to pay. 
  • Child Custody — In Florida, the terms legal custody and physical custody have been replaced with parental responsibilities and time-sharing in recognition of the fact that children can benefit from ongoing, healthy relationships with both parents. Therefore, each parent retains full parental rights and responsibility for their children, provided that there are no extenuating circumstances such as domestic abuse or drug or alcohol dependency. In any event, the parties must agree on a parenting plan before the court will grant a divorce. 
  • Child Support — Generally, child support determinations are based on the custody and time-sharing agreement, with the noncustodial parent making child support payments. Moreover, the amount of child support is based on Florida’s child support guidelines, which considers factors such as (1) the income and earning capacity of each parent, (2) the child’s standard of living, and (3), the cost of healthcare, daycare and extracurricular activities.

Mediation and Hearings 

As mentioned above, a couple seeking a divorce in Central Florida is required to go through mediation before a divorce will be granted. In this process, a neutral third party known as a mediator guides the parties through negotiations aimed at resolving the key issues in the divorce. The mediator is not permitted to give legal advice however, which is why it is essential to consult the divorce mediation attorneys at Orlando Family Team. We will work to protect your interests and are fully prepared to litigate if mediation is not successful.

If court intervention becomes necessary, you should know that this is not a typical jury trial. In what is referred to as a “bench trial,” a judge will hold hearings and consider the motions presented by each spouse’s divorce attorney. When you work with our husband and wife team, you will have peace of mind knowing that we have successfully litigated numerous divorces. Well-versed in Florida’s domestic relations laws, we have established long-standing working relationships with judges which allow us to anticipate rulings and take the necessary steps to achieve a favorable outcome for you and your family.

Some Individuals are Couples are at a Higher Risk of Divorce

Although any marital bond is subject to stress and challenges, studies have shown that certain people are more likely to get divorced, such as:

  • Individuals with divorced parents
  • Couples who marry before the age of 21
  • Individuals who have not completed high school or attended college
  • Low-income individuals 
  • Couples who lived together before marriage
  • Couples who have had children before marriage

At Orlando Family Team, we have helped people from all walks of like handle the divorce process. Regardless of your family background or financial situation, we will always put your best interests first. 

What Happens When Circumstances Change?

While final determinations regarding matters such as child custody, and child support are legally binding, they are not written in stone and are open to modification should circumstances change after the divorce. With respect to child custody, it may be that the custodial parent needs to move to another location inside or outside of the state for a job opportunity. It is important to note, however, that a child relocation can only occur with the court’s consent. Similarly, child support determinations are based on the income and earning capacity of each spouse. If there is a significant change in the income of either parent, upward or downward, it may be possible to request a modification of a child support order.

Enforcement of Agreements 

At times, a spouse that is required to pay spousal support or child support may not live up to his or her obligations. In this situation, it is necessary to ask the court to enforce the agreement. In the case of child support, for example, the court has the option of garnishing the non-paying parent’s wages, and/or seizing that individual’s bank accounts and other assets. A parent who is seriously derelict in his or her duties to provide for the children may also be held in contempt, which, in extreme cases, may result in a prison sentence. The courts are generally reluctant to take such action, however, because the parent will not be able to earn a living to pay the mandated child support. 

Contact Our Experienced Florida Divorce Attorneys

Let’s face it: a marital break up is never easy and the divorce process in Florida can be complicated and confusing. When you consult Orlando Family Team, you can rest assured that we will stand by you every step of the way. Founding attorneys Ophelia Bernal-Mora and Andrew Nickolaou are a husband and wife team with a well-earned reputation for providing their clients with informed representation when they need it most. If you have questions about the divorce process or need assistance with any family law matter, please contact our office today to set up a consultation.