A family law dispute is frightening and overwhelming and a major life event.  I am dedicated to providing you help in language that you can understand. If you don't feel like you understand your options, just ask, and I will work to find an explanation that works for you.  If children are involved keeping good communication between the parties is vital for long-term co-parenting and avoids any additional stress on the children during the process.   In most situations involving children and division of assets and liabilities, dispute resolution methods are most often favored over a trial by judge because the parties can control the outcome. Otherwise, each party will get some but not all of what they hoped for.  


What to expect in a divorce action -- A divorce is started by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  The receiving party will be served a Summons, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other required pleadings.  After the receiving party is served, the receiving party will have 20 days to answer.  Within 45 days after the receiving party is served, both parties to the action will be required to attend a parenting course and serve the other party with mandatory disclosures.  Mandatory disclosures are a variety of financial documents and includes the preparation of a financial affidavit.  Once the financial disclosures have been exchanged, the parties must attend a mandatory mediation process to attempt to resolve the issues in the case.  If the parties are unable to resolve the issues in the case, then the case will be set for a trial in front of the assigned Judge or Magistrate.    

Shared Parenting -- What is child custody and visitation?  In the past, Florida child custody involved one parent being designated as the primary custodial parent and the other parent received visitation time. This created many disputes over which parent was best suited to be the primary custodial parent. In 2008, the legislature altered the law to reduce custody disputes between parents and to more quickly and efficiently resolve the dissolution process. Now both parents will share time with their children under a Shared Parenting Plan that involves a number of decisions to be made by each parent related to the child's upbringing. The goal is for the child to spend nearly equal time with each parent unless there is some reason to alter the time shared. The best interest of the children has been and remains the guiding principle for the parents and the court in making all decisions and rulings regarding the children. As a parent, your past, present and future conduct will be evaluated to determine your ability to remain focused on your children's best interests.  

Child Support -- How is child support calculated under Florida law?  The calculation of child support is determined under the statutory guidelines and relatively straight forward. The calculation takes into account the incomes of the parents, medical and child care costs. Although there can be some reasons to vary from the guidelines. Under certain circumstances, a motion to deviate from the child support guidelines can be filed to increase or decrease the amount of support depending upon the particular facts and circumstances involved. 


Alimony -- How is alimony calculated under Florida law? Unlike child support, there is not a set calculation that can be performed in order to determine whether alimony will be awarded. There are several factors that the court will consider to determine whether alimony will be paid. Primarily, you must show a need for alimony and the other spouse has an ability to pay. In addition, the length of the marriage, the contributions each spouse has provided to the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, employment prospects and the overall fairness to the award of alimony are all factors that a court will consider. If the court awards alimony, it may be temporary, rehabilitative, lump sum or permanent alimony depending upon the facts of your case.   

Division of Assets and Liabilities -- How will the court divide the assets and liabilities incurred during the marriage? Under Florida law, the division of assets and liabilities is presumed to be a 50/50 split between spouses. However, a court can allocate assets or liabilities to the spouse who earned the money or incurred the debt and vary the 50/50 split. A court will consider a scenario where one spouse hides or wastes assets and may freeze an account or order an unequal distribution to compensate the other spouse. A spouse may also show that an asset is non-marital and not subject to the divorce proceedings. 

 Helpful Links:
Escambia County Clerk of Court – www.escambiaclerk.com
Santa Rosa County Clerk of Court – www.santarosaclerk.com
Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement – www.myflorida.com/dor/childsupport
Florida Unclaimed Property Registry - http://www.fltreasurehunt.org/ControlServlet?ActionForm=GotoNewPublicSearch 

Favor House (Domestic Violence) 850.434.1177

Informational Links:
Pensacola New Journal – www.pnj.com
Wall Street Journal – www.wallstreetjournal.com
New York Times – www.nytimes.com
USA Today – www.usatoday.com
Google  - www.google.com
Yahoo – www.yahoo.com
Bing – www.bing.com