Florida is a “no fault” state, but when a marriage ends, there are issues to be decided. They fall under two main categories: Economic/Financial and Children’s Issues.
The chart below is a basic overview of divorce and is meant to give the reader a skeletal outline of those issues. The answers to questions that are frequently asked about each of these could fill a book (and there are many such books available).
|1. Nonmarital assets: What assets and debts are not part of the marriage (i.e. things such as pre-marital items)||1. Residence: Where the children will live, primary residency.|
|2. Marital Assets: What assets and debts are marital. These must be identified, valued and divided. This division is called “equitable distribution,” but equitable distribution does not mean “equal,” it means “fair.” Each party must disclose financial information as part of this process.||2. Time Share: How often each parent has the children with him or her, both during the school year and on vacations and holidays.|
– Spousal support, also called alimony (different types, including permanent, rehabilitative, and bridge-the-gap).
– Child support, which is based on specific state guidelines.
|3. Child Support: Who pays child support and how much. This depends on incomes of the parents and how much time each parent spends with the child. There is a specific formula to determine this, which also takes into consideration:
– Health care insurance and/or costs.
– Child care costs.
– Number of children
|4. Attorney’s fees and costs: If there is a big disparity in incomes of spouses, one spouse may be responsible to pay the other spouse’s attorney’s fees and costs.||4. Who makes decisions about the children: In Florida, the default is joint custody, called “shared parental responsibility” — both parents have input into decisions affecting children.|
|5. Each parent is required to take a four-hour parenting seminar to assist them in dealing with their children in positive ways during the divorce period.|
One underlying question which is often asked is, “How much does it cost to get divorced?” The answer to that depends solely on the parties seeking the divorce. If either party is determined to make an issue of each facet of divorce and must have the Court (Judge) decide those issues, it will most likely cost more in time, attorney’s fees and anxiety/aggravation.
If the parties can cooperate and agree by using an alternative dispute resolution mechanism such as negotiation, mediation or collaborative lawyering, most likely it will cost less, take less time, and they will have more control over the outcome. As a mediator and collaborative lawyer, I strongly recommend these alternatives to litigation.
Iris Bass is an attorney practicing in South Florida since 1984. She is a certified family mediator, a collaborative attorney, and is current President of the Collaborative Family Lawyers of South Florida.
For more information on collaborative law, see the website of Collaborative Family Lawyers of South Florida for information about the local association and its member lawyers in Broward and South Palm Beach County.