What can I Expect if I Divorce In Florida?

Often times, new clients come to see me at Gonzalez & Rodriguez, PL in Coral Gables on an exploratory mission, they have no idea about divorce nor what it means and are scared about the implications.  Divorce is probably one of the most dramatic and emotionally destabilizing moments for anyone to have to go through.  The emotions run high and often times people are not saying or doing what is in their best interests because they are so confused and emotionally drained.  Often times I feel more like a psychiatrist or psychologist than an attorney because the client wants to confide in someone who is objective and a third party to tell their part of the story as to what led them to divorce and usually want to take some of the blame.  I explain to them that they may seek professional help to deal with their emotions and to help them get through this tough time, my job is to sort and separate their lives in a manner that is fair to all parties involved.  
When their are children involved in a Divorce, I think the focus should be on them and how they will deal with this most traumatic experience.  Parents need to make every effort to insure that children make the most comfortable transition from living together as one unit to living apart with one parent at a time. Children need to understand that they are not the cause of the Divorce.  The parents should be responsible enough to not drag their children into the arguments or use them as pawns to hurt one another.  I see this all of the time and it really upsets me that people stoop so low and as a result hurt their own children’s well being.   
Divorce has a few basic components which I will describe as follows:
1.  Alimony – is defined as a legal obligation to provide financial support to one’s spouse from the ex-spouse upon divorce.  Alimony basically has three types: rehabilitative, lump sum, or permanent.  Depending on the amount of time one has been married, the disparity of income, and the ability of the ex-spouse to make alimony payments will determine the type and/or whether alimony is appropriate.  In Florida, the length of time of the marriage is a factor in the eligibility for alimony. 
2. Equitable Distribution of Assets and Liabilities – Basically, anything of value that was purchased during the marriage should be divided equally and any debt incurred during the marriage should be divided equally as well.  Assets include the marital home, other property, bank accounts, automobiles, boats, furniture, appliances, jewelry, 401k, pension plans, investments, etc.  Liabilities will include mortgages, loans, credit card debt, student loans, pending law suits, etc.  The idea is to equitably divide both assets and liabilities so that each party keeps half of each.  
 3. Child Support – the amount for child support is determined by the number of kids and the combined income of the parents as stated on a scale promulgated by the state of Florida.  The percentage of income for each parent determines their percentage of the promulgated amount they will be obligated to pay.  For example, if you have two children and your combined income is $1,500.00, the child support obligation would be $529.00.  If your income accounted for 80% of the combined income, then your personal obligation would be $423.20 of the total child support amount of $529.00.  Other factors are involved in determining child support including the amount of time the child or children are with any one parent. 
4.  Custody and Visitation – Several years ago Florida removed language in the statute which designated one parent as the primary custodial parent and the other with merely visitation.  The idea being that parents should share custody equally without a designation and stigma that one parent was primary and the other secondary.  The court is taxed with insuring and looking after the best interests of the children when determining custody, visitation, school location, living arrangements, or anything related to the well being of children.  The parties should come to an agreement as to custody and visitation which works for them.  No situation is the same for anyone case and as such the schedule and flexibility of visitation and living arrangement should be determined by the parties and not left to the court which can result in an outcome contrary to the party’s wishes.  Sometimes the parties cannot come to an agreement and the court is forced to make the ultimate determination. 
These are some of the issues which usually come up in any divorce, my advice to all new clients is to stay level headed, try to talk to your spouse about making the divorce a smooth transition and only fight the big fights and forget the rest.  Remember, the only one who will win if you fight like cats and dogs about every little issue is the divorce attorney. 

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