Family Law FAQs
Q: Do I really need a lawyer?
A: A person has the right to represent himself or herself in a dissolution action. However, there are many pitfalls for the unwary, starting with using the right language in the petition for dissolution, continuing through the introduction of evidence, and even in post-judgment proceedings. Florida law can be confusing, even if all matters in dispute are agreed to. Also, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney before you sign an agreement or else it may be too late to protect your rights.
Q: What is “dissolution” and how is it different from “divorce”?
A: Dissolution is the term currently used in Florida to refer to “dissolving the marriage partnership.” In practical effect, it has the same general understanding as the word “divorce,” but divorce focused on the conduct of the parties which caused the marriage to fail. When Florida changed to a no-fault system, the terminology changed also to reflect the new standards.
Q: Do I need to have grounds for a divorce?
A: No. Florida is a “no fault” divorce state. All you have to do it say your marriage is irretrievably broken.
Q: How long will a divorce take?
A: A typical divorce will take between 3 to 6 months. If it is truly uncontested and all matters are agreed to in advance, then it could take as little as a few weeks. However, if your divorce is hotly contested, involving complex legal issues, it could take more than a year.
Q: I think it would be best for the kids if I moved somewhere else. Can I do this?
A: Not without court order. The State of Florida has a very strong public policy interest in ensuring that children have access to both parents, and doesn’t look kindly on one parent unilaterally removing the children from the vicinity of the other parent. If one parent wishes to relocate such that it will impact the other parent’s ability to have a meaningful relationship with the children (and the other parent does not agree), the parent wishing to relocate must file a petition asking the Court to permit the move, and must prove that it is in the children’s best interest to do so.
Q: My new spouse was transferred to a place far away. What can I do?
A: Under these circumstances, you must file a petition for relocation and prove to the Court that it is in the children’s best interest to relocate away from the parent who will be left behind. If the party seeking to relocate cannot prove to the court that it is best for the children to relocate, then the requesting spouse can either move without the children or stay in Florida with the children.
Q: Can I waive child support to get him/her to waive timesharing?
A: No. Child support is a right that belongs to the child, not to the parent, and the parent cannot waive it. Furthermore, failure to pay child support is not grounds to withhold timesharing from the other parent.
Q: Will I pay/receive child support?
A: If there is a minor child, the court will almost certainly order child support.
Q: How is child custody decided?
The Court has the ultimate responsibility to determine that the agreement made by the parents is in the best interests of the children, even if that means overruling some agreement the parents have made. If the parties themselves cannot agree, the judge will decide what he or she thinks is best for the child. This is a very complicated area of family law. The law seems to be evolving towards a more equitable time sharing arrangement, rather than the old-fashioned “weekends only” approach.
Now, the Court has the obligation and the right to review all agreements as they relate to raising the children and change those provisions that are not best for the kids.
Q: How is “the children’s best interest” defined?
A: This question is determined on a case-by-case basis. The statute enumerates factors that the Court is to consider, but every case is different and the weight given to factor A in one case may be completely different from the weight given to factor A in your case. Again, do not rely on what your family, neighbors and friends tell you about how the law works.
Q: I just moved to Florida six months ago. Can I get divorced here?
A: If you have been a resident of the state of Florida for at least six months, you are entitled to be divorced in Florida, even if your spouse does not live in Florida.
Q: My spouse met with an attorney, should I file first?
A: Not necessarily, unless it gives you a psychological boost to be the person requesting the dissolution. Typically, the petitioner (person requesting the dissolution) pays the filing fee, so many people choose not to race off to the courthouse. There is no tactical advantage to being the petitioner, since the Court’s job is the “equitably distribute” the parties’ assets and liabilities depending on the parties’ circumstances. Both parties have an opportunity to present their position to the Court.
Q: Do I really have to go through mediation?
A: Mediation is a mandatory proceeding in family law cases. The majority of family law cases do settle at mediation or shortly thereafter. The Court will not set your matter for final hearing (trial) unless you have been to mediation.
Q: I don’t really want my spouse to know about all of my bank accounts. Can you help me keep that information a secret?
A: No. An attorney has a duty of candor to the Court, and cannot help a client present testimony to the Court that the attorney knows is false or fraudulent. If a client persists with such a request, an attorney may not only have an obligation to withdraw from representation of the client, but may also have to make the Court aware of the false, misleading or fraudulent information.
Q: Will I pay or receive alimony?
A: This depends upon many factors, with the most important factor being the need of one spouse to be supported and the ability of the other to pay support.
Q: What about my situation?
This is not legal advice about your specific situation. We need to discuss your situation and your objectives and your rights in detail. Since the initial office consultation is without charge, you can contact our office by calling (877) 315-5107
to schedule an appointment or fill out the contact
form on our website, and someone from our office will call you regarding your specific situation.
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