1. Do I have to hire an attorney to get a divorce in Florida?
No, you are not required to have an attorney to obtain a divorce in Florida. However, if your case involves children, alimony, significant property, or debts, you should at least consult with a lawyer before deciding whether to proceed on your own. You may have certain rights and obligations about which you are unaware. If your divorce doesn't involve any of these issues, it is still advisable to consult with an attorney to discuss the best way to proceed. A person who proceeds in a legal matter without a lawyer is referred to as being pro se (pronounced pro-say), meaning "on one's own." Most of the forms you will need to proceed pro se are available online at www.flcourts.org at no cost to you.
2. What is the first step in getting a divorce?
If you decide to consult with the Law Offices of Lisa P. Kirby, call to schedule an appointment. Even if you are not ready to file for divorce, but you think your spouse might be, call to schedule an appointment right away to obtain information about protecting yourself and your children. The more information you have, the better prepared you are if your spouse does file for divorce.
3. Is Florida a no-fault state or do I need grounds for a divorce?
Florida, like most states, is a no-fault divorce state. This means that neither you nor your spouse is required to prove that the other is "at fault" in order to be granted a divorce. Factors such as infidelity, domestic violence, or abandonment are not necessary to receive a divorce in Florida. Rather, it is only necessary to prove that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" to have it dissolved. The testimony of either you or your spouse that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" is sufficient evidence for the court to rule that the marriage should be dissolved. The judge will not ask for information regarding the nature of the problems that led to the divorce or whether any type of reconciliation efforts were made.
4. How long will it take to get my divorce?
The more you and your spouse are in agreement, the faster your divorce will conclude. If all issues, such as parenting plans/time-sharing, support, property, and debts are completely settled between you and your spouse, a final hearing can be held after the twenty-one-day waiting period. If your case proceeds to trial, the process can take up to a year or longer for your divorce to be final.
5. What determines whether I will get child support?
The Florida Child Support Guidelines are used to calculate which parent will pay child support based upon net incomes of both parties and the specific time-sharing schedule.
6. Can I request child support even if I do not meet the six-month residency requirement for a divorce in Florida?
Yes. Even if you have not met the requirements to get a divorce in Florida, you have a right to seek support for your children. Call our office or visit the Department of Revenue Child Support Office website at http.dor.myflorida.com to apply for services online or to find a local office that can assist you in applying for child support. You can also call (800) 622-KIDS (5437) to speak with a representative with the Department of Revenue.
7. Can I get temporary support while the divorce is still going on?
A judge has authority to enter a temporary order for time sharing and child support. This order ordinarily remains in place until a final parenting plan and child support order is entered.
8. What if my child does not want to go for his or her parenting time? Can my former spouse force the child to go?
If your child is resisting going with the other parent, it can be helpful to determine the underlying reason. Consider these questions:
- What is your child's stated reason for not wanting to go?
- Does your child appear afraid, anxious, or sad?
- Do you have any concerns regarding your child's safety while with the other parent?
- Have you prepared your child for being with the other parent, speaking about the experience with enthusiasm and encouragement?
- Is it possible your child is perceiving your anxiety about the situation and is consequently having the same reaction?
- Have you provided support for your children's transition to the other home, such as completing fun activities in your home well in advance of the other parent's starting time for parenting?
- Have you spoken to the other parent about your child's behavior?
- Can you provide anything that will make your child's time with the other parent more comfortable, such as a favorite blanket or toy?
- Have you established clear routines that support your child to be ready to go with the other parent with ease, such as packing a backpack or saying good-bye to a family pet?
The reason for a child's reluctance to go with the other parent may be as simple as being sad about leaving you or as serious as being a victim of abuse in the other parent's home. It is important to look at this closely to determine the best response.
Judges treat compliance with court orders for parenting time seriously. If one parent believes that the other parent is intentionally interfering with parenting time or the parent-child relationship, it can result in further litigation. At the same time, you want to know that your child is safe. Talk with the Law Offices of Lisa P. Kirby about the best approach in your situation.
9. What system does Florida use for dividing property?
Florida law provides for an equitable distribution of the property and debts acquired during your marriage. There is a presumption that the division of property shall be equal. The court will consider several factors that would justify an unequal division of the property, including the following:
- The contributions of each spouse during the marriage, including one spouse's raising the children
- The financial resources of each spouse
- One spouse's sacrifices in the other spouse's career building
- Maintaining the marital home for raising any minor children
- The benefit of maintaining an asset, such as a business or other income-producing asset
10. How long do I have to have lived in Florida to get a divorce in the state?
Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of Florida for at least six months prior to filing the divorce to meet the residency requirement for a divorce in Florida. If neither party meets the residency requirement, other legal options may be available for your protection.
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