Articles Posted in Alimony

The question as to whether or not an individual needs an attorney to divorce in Florida is simple if we review the question literally.  You can get a divorce in Florida without an attorney.  However, it may be unwise to attempt to be divorced without an attorney.

Why Should I Use an Attorney?

The author believes that an attorney is essential if you are attempting to obtain a divorce.  This may sound like a self serving statement, but the author thinks there are numerous reasons that one should use an attorney to guide them through the process.  The author feels that having an attorney keeps otherwise Pro Se (self represented) clients forging ahead and not getting side tracked by discovery issues and other procedural problems regularly encountered and routinely dealt with by attorneys.

The marital home is frequently the largest asset between the parties to be divided in a divorce. When and how the marital home was acquired will be a major factor in determining who gets the marital home temporarily and permanently.

What is Exclusive Use and Possession?

Exclusive use and possession refers to one party receiving permission to use the home for their own purposes. Conditions are frequently provided for, as well. A frequent condition to receiving exclusive use and possession of a home is typically connected with paying the mortgage or other household bills.  This sometimes occurs initially after holding a temporary needs hearing or a domestic violence injunction hearing.  The most expedient, but not necessarily recommended way that a spouse can obtain exclusive use and possession of a home is through a domestic violence case. Using a domestic violence case to obtain exclusive use and possession should only be pursued when it involves a Petitioner that has been the victim of domestic violence. In other words, a petition for injunction should only be filed when actually necessary to stop or prevent violence. Where domestic violence is not an issue, a temporary needs hearing would be the best vehicle to obtain a temporary order to decide who stays in the home temporarily. The author has seen a number of occasions where both parties shared the home while they waited for a final hearing because neither party had a good option to leave.  This is not recommended, as it is natural for hostility to build between two partis going through a divorce.

The end of a marriage can be a trying time, both emotionally and financially.  For many people, fundamental aspects of their daily life will change dramatically, including where they live, how often they see their children, their day-to-day routine, and even whether or not they have a job.  In some cases, one of the parties to a marriage has forgone pursuing a career to support his or her spouse or may have left the workforce early to raise a family or manage the marital home.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in obtaining alimony or defending against alimony claims.

Florida Alimony

Of course, the parties to a marriage both have financial needs, both during the marriage and afterwards, should it end.  The law that governs the way marriages end recognize this fact and provide for an equitable distribution of the marital assets upon dissolution.  Additionally, Florida Courts are authorized by law to award additional financial support based on one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay.  This type of arrangement is referred to as “alimony” by Florida law but can also be called “spousal support” or “maintenance.”  There are several types of alimony that may be awarded, including bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, permanent, durational, or lump-sum alimony.  Which kind of alimony is appropriate to request can sometimes be difficult to decide on your own.  Your Jacksonville family attorney will assist you in making that determination after examining all the facts related to your marriage.

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that is mandatory in a Florida divorce, paternity, or modification case, but many people do not see the process as the benefit it is.  During mediation, the two parties will meet with a mediator who is an unbiased and uninterested person in the case.  The mediator will try and help the parties resolve all disputes related to the family law case.  If an agreement is reached, it is drafted and submitted to the Court for approval so the case can be closed.  While the process is straightforward, there are still many myths related to the process.  Your Jacksonville family attorney can assist you in understanding the mediation process.  Below are the biggest myths about family law mediation in Florida, and the truth behind them.

The Mediator Will Make All the Decisions

This is simply untrue.  Mediators do not make any of the decisions when they meet with parties going through a divorce, paternity, or modification case.  They cannot force either party to do, or not do, anything.  Instead, they are only there to help you and facilitate you and your spouse, ex-spouse, or co-parent to reach an agreement.  If you cannot reach an agreement and your case requires litigation, it is the Judge that will make all the decisions.  Your Jacksonville family attorney is here to assist you in mediation and to represent you in any litigation should you not reach agreement.

Your domicile is the place upon which an individual has voluntarily decided to reside permanently.  In the ordinary sense, a persons domicile is the place where he lives and where he has his or her home.  However, the legal definition is more specific.  The plan in which a person has his or her permanent home and principal establishment upon which he intends to return whenever he is absent would fit the legal definition of domicile.

Why is it Important to Determine Domicile?

The domicile that one chooses has legal consequences. One’s domicile determines which state can probate a will.  It also determines which state can collect estate taxes when someone dies.  One’s domicile establishes where an individual may exercise certain legal rights and privileges.  Where one has the privilege to vote is determined by domicile.

It is no secret that going through a divorce is expensive.  Although there is very little that you can do about certain costs of your divorce, such as what you may or may not lose during property division hearings, there is one area of expenses you can control.  That is your legal fees and costs.  All divorce attorneys in Jacksonville will charge something to legally represent you during the process, and the advice and counsel they bring to your case is invaluable.  Still, there are some ways that you can keep the legal costs down, so you do not face unexpected charges in the future.  Your Jacksonville divorce lawyer can explain to you in your initial consultation how to keep your legal costs down but here are some basic tips.

Call and Email Only When You Have To

            Most divorce lawyers in Jacksonville will charge you for every time they devote to answering your phone calls and emails.  However, you likely want them to spend this time preparing for your trial, mediation, or other aspects of your case.  You will have may questions during the divorce process, and you deserve to have them answered.  Instead of incurring fees every time you have a question, prepare a list of questions, and ask them all at once.  Your Jacksonville divorce lawyer will still charge you, but you will likely incur fewer legal fees.

It is not uncommon in a divorce case for one of the spouse’s not to want to end the marriage.  One partner may think that there is a chance of working things out and resolving their differences, or they may not want to legally dissolve the marriage for other reasons.  If your spouse has started divorce proceedings, and you really don’t want a divorce, your options may be limited but there is something you can do.  Florida is one of seventeen states that follow No-Fault laws in divorce cases.  The Petitioner only has to allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you really do not want a divorce you should answer the Petition for Dissolution by alleging you do not believe the marriage is irretrievably broken.  Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b)1 allows you to request the Court to Order you and your spouse to marriage counseling.  It is rarely done and there are specific requirements that must be met.  Your Jacksonville Family Lawyer can assist you in understanding this law and representing you in Court.

In order for a spouse to utilize this statute, the parties must have a child together.  If the Court grants the request for marriage counseling, psychiatrist, priest, minister, rabbi, or any other professional the divorce will be placed on hold for approximately three months to allow the counseling to take place.  Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b)2 allows the Court to continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed 3 months, to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation.  During any period of continuance, the Court has jurisdiction to make appropriate orders for the support and alimony of the parties; a parenting plan, support, maintenance, and education of any minor children of the marriage; attorney’s fees; and the preservation of the property of the parties.  Consult your Jacksonville Family Lawyer for assistance with your case.

As previously stated, the above statute is rarely used.  This is because if one person wants to end the marriage, counseling is usually not effective.  By the time a person has made the decision to start the divorce process, they have usually given it a lot of thought and intend to go through with it.

What is Support without Dissolution?

Section 61.09 allows a married individual to file for support (child support and alimony) where a person does not seek a dissolution.  This statute allows a party to seek alimony or child support.  However, that party may or may not request the entry of a parenting plan.  A final judgment of support does not include distribution of marital assets.  This type of action is sometimes referred to as separate maintenance.

“If a person having the ability to contribute to the maintenance of his or her spouse and support of his or her minor child fails to do so, the spouse who is not receiving support may apply to the court for alimony and for support for the child without seeking dissolution of marriage, and the court shall enter an order as it deems just and proper.”  F.S. 61.09.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two persons that are contemplating marriage that predetermines how property and other issues are to be dealt with upon divorce.  Prenuptial agreements require full disclosure by both parties.  This means that each party should be ready and willing to provide their present financial picture to the other.  Without such disclosure, the agreement may be susceptible to legal challenge.

What are the advantages of such an agreement?

Few people want to accept responsibility for a lifelong obligation that they were not responsible for.  There is more than one way under Florida law to create a parental relationship with a child.  Not all relationships in today’s society follow the model that involved a two parent family whereby the husband was the bread winner and the wife was a stay at home mother.  Today, the norm has changed, and single parent households are much more commonplace than they were traditionally. 

There are a number of ways that paternity can be established.  When a woman is married and she becomes pregnant, there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father.  This is true even where the husband could not physically have impregnated the wife.  Section 742.10 of the Florida Statutes covers all of the ways that paternity of a child can be established.  In short, paternity can be established when a married woman has a child, by consent, by court order, or by the legal father signing the birth certificate and notarized documents admitting paternity. 

When a woman has a child out of wedlock and applies for governmental assistance, she may find that the agency or agencies she is applying through will require her to participate in a legal proceeding to establish the paternity of the child.  In part, this is because the government wants to make the father responsible for supporting the child.  Both parents are responsible for their child and a father or mother can be required to support their child until they reach majority.  In some rare cases, they may have legal responsibility beyond the age of majority.  The author of this article has handled numerous child support cases over the last 16 years and he has seen some people have their lives wrecked after they were required to pay child support (an Obligor).  When an Obligor discovers that the child they are supporting is not theirs, disestablishing paternity may be an option for them.  Although disestablishing paternity will terminate an ongoing support obligation, it will not extinguish any child support obligation which has accrued.  Even when disestablishing paternity is successful, an otherwise Obligor may still have to pay a large arrearage. 

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