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What factors does the judge consider when dividing assets?

In divorce cases that go to family law court, the judge will base their property division decision on a number of factors, including: the length of the marriage, what each party contributed to the marriage, total income and debts of both parties, and the physical/emotional health of both parties.

What is marital property and what is separate property?

Marital property is any property owned jointly by spouses. Separate property typically is property that a single spouse owned independently before marriage.

How is property divided in divorce?

In Florida, property is divided by the equitable distribution principle. This means that separate property is kept separate, while marital (jointly held) property is divided equitably. This can mean equal or unequal division of assets for both parties.

What are the rights of Parents in the State of Florida?

The family courts in places like Lake, Sumter, Hernando, Marion and Orange proceed from the judicial philosophy that a child's interests are best served when both parents are involved. It is rare that the court will decide to give sole custody to one parent without guaranteeing the other parent liberal visitation. Furthermore, regardless of the custody arrangement, both parents will normally be allowed to have a say in the child's upbringing with regard to schools, residence, religion, and medical decisions. In other words, both parties will be allowed to co-parent the child. It is important to note that parental rights are not extended automatically to both parties.

How do I spot behavioral changes in children during a divorce?

Even when both parents agree that dissolution of marriage is in everyone's best interests, a divorce can be an emotionally traumatic experience for minor children. But when either or both parents demonstrate animosity toward one another, it can damage a child's development in ways that may not even be apparent for years to come. As a divorce lawyer serving clients in central Florida, I advise our family law clients who have children to seek the counseling service of a reputable child psychologist or licensed family counselor—even in cases where the children have not demonstrated any overt emotional or behavioral changes.

Signs of Emotional Change in Children Who are Going Through Divorce

It's important for parents to recognize the fact that divorce affects the entire family. Just as the divorcing spouses may have concerns about lodgings, finances, and the general directions of their lives, children may experience feelings of instability, which could make them respond in a variety of ways. How a child will react to divorce depends on a number of factors, including age, whether the child has siblings, his or her ability to understand why the divorce is occurring, and individual personality traits. For instance, an eight-year old and a fifteen-year old of the same parents may both have the ability to understand their parents' reasons for divorcing, but the younger child may react angrily, while the older one slides into depression. The following are some of the reactions that children who are going through a divorce may experience:

  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Sadness
  • Physical ailments, such as headaches, stomach aches, et cetera
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to sleep
  • Falling grades
  • Violent outbursts

Even if your child doesn't specifically demonstrate one of the above listed signs, any notable change in a child's behavior, demeanor, or actions is noteworthy and should be considered a warning. As a professional family law attorney, I will recommend availing yourself of the services provided by any number of qualified family counseling providers in central Florida. If that is not possible, try to educate yourself on the topic of behavioral changes in children during a divorce as much as possible.

How much should I expect to set aside for supporting my child?

The state of Florida uses a child support calculator based upon your monthly income and the number of children. That calculator is used often to find a general starting point and does not necessarily indicate the amount that you will have to pay. Depending on the circumstances, amount of time you spend with the child and other factors, the amount might be more or less. However, each situation is unique.

What is collaborative divorce?

Collaborative law is a relatively new way of handling divorces in the United States. Developed in the early 90's, collaborative divorce is a completely different way of approaching marriage dissolution. Each party retains his or her own attorney, but this system is done completely outside of the courtroom. The mindset of this type of divorce is totally toward cooperating and reaching an amicable agreement in all aspects of your divorce, including child support, alimony, child custody, property division and other issues.

Do I have to pay alimony in a divorce?

Spousal support, as it is now commonly called in Florida, used to be known as "alimony." Spousal support is not mandatory in most states, but can be ordered by a judge under certain circumstances.

If a spouse will face hardships without financial support, spousal support should be considered. The deciding factor for spousal support is the need to maintain the spouse at his or her customary standard of living. In other words, the law recognizes a husband or wife should not be forced to live at a level below that enjoyed during the marriage.

However, other factors also need to be considered. For example, spousal support should most likely not be considered if:

  1. The marriage was for a short duration (less than two or three years), and
  2. Both spouses are employed and self-sufficient
  3. This does not mean the parties cannot agree on spousal support

There is no firm dollar figure used to calculate spousal support. The amount should be decided by both parties.

What to Expect in a Florida Divorce?

Divorce is a painful and difficult experience. If you understand the functions and limitations of the Florida legal system, the process becomes more tolerable. This should provide you with a greater understanding of the process to help you get through your divorce with realistic ideas and goals.

Limitations

Florida’s divorce system is based on the principle of “no-fault,” meaning that a divorce will be granted if either party believes that the marriage is over. Generally, the causes of the failure of the marriage are not an issue in court. All that matters is that the marriage needs to be ended.

It is impossible for any court to heal the emotional wounds created by your divorce. You must understand that the legal system is not a tool for punishment of your spouse. The courtroom is no place for revenge. The court must decide your case on the basis of its unique facts. In most cases, the law does not permit the court to compensate either of you for the other’s misconduct.

Please do your best to keep emotions out of the case. Your feelings of anger, pain, and betrayal are understandable, but expressing them inappropriately in court may interfere with your ability to provide the court with the information the court needs.

Settlement

The best way to conclude your case is to settle it. Through compromise and cooperation, a settlement can lead to greater mutual satisfaction and lessened animosity between you and your spouse. In most cases, negotiations toward settlement can be more productive and far less expensive than a trial.

If negotiations fail and you must try your case, the court will make rulings that will permanently affect you and your children. The court’s rulings must be made exclusively upon the limited evidence that is presented in court, and nothing else. Because the court is restricted in what the court can and cannot do, a settlement can offer a wider range of options.

Variations

Every divorce is different. Your results may be very different from your neighbor’s, friend’s, or relative’s. You cannot rely upon what happened in their cases and assume that your results will be the same. Cases that seem similar may, in fact, be very different and will be treated differently under the law. For this reason, you should look to your lawyer for your legal advice and information. Your friends and relatives usually do not have a grasp of the law and your case, and accepting their advice may hinder you in the long run.

Finances

Unless you settle your case, the court must allocate the income and assets accumulated during the marriage. The law is that you and your spouse were financial partners during the marriage and are presumed entitled to share in both the assets and income the partnership made.

For most people, lifestyles change after a divorce. Since divorces do not create property or income, the court must divide the marital resources between two separate households. It costs more to run two households than one. If you or your spouse has not been employed during the marriage, it may be necessary to seek employment.

In considering a settlement, you should consider whether you can afford the attorney’s fees to fully litigate your case. Fees and costs in contested cases can be quite high. Usually, a settlement prior to trial reduces the expenses considerably, an important consideration if you come to the divorce with limited resources.

Issues

A divorce generally involves four major issues: child custody/visitation, child support [Leesburg FL Child Support & Child Custody Attorney Services], alimony, and a division of property/debts. The court may also be asked to enter an order (called an injunction) prohibiting or requiring certain actions. After the case is concluded, the court may later be asked to modify custody and/or support. You need to understand each of these aspects of your case.

Child Custody

Most parents will share parental responsibility for their children after the divorce. In doing so, you must communicate and confer with each other in making decisions that will affect your children.

Usually, the court will give one parent majority time-sharing (custody) of the children. Unless there is a good reason, the court will grant the other parent liberal and frequent time-sharing (visitation). Determining the majority time-sharing (custody), the court will give great weight to the issue of which of you is more likely to encourage the children to visit the other. In some cases, the court may award equal time-sharing (rotating custody) where the children spend an equal amount of time with both parents.

The court decides custody solely on what is best for the children. Often, one of the parties is hurt by the decision, especially if that party sees the decision in a “win/lose” light. In truth, there can be no loser if the children’s welfare is protected.

In virtually all custody contests, the court will direct both parties to participate mediation to resolve that issue. A mediator is an unbiased third party who can often assist the parties in reaching agreement upon what is best for the children. An agreement on custody will certainly make your case easier and help your children immeasurably in dealing with your divorce.

Child Support

Aside from continuing to love your children and seeing them often, you have no higher obligation as a parent than to continue supporting your children after the divorce. Child support is more important than any other debt or financial obligation. Both parents are required to support the children, but the minority time-sharer (non-residential/non-custodial parent) will be directed to pay his/her portion of the support to the other. This does not mean that the majority time-sharer (residential parent) is not contributing to the support. Florida has adopted guidelines for child support that the court is required to follow. Your friends and relatives may have been involved in divorces years ago or in other states and receive or pay lower support than our guidelines provide. The child support in your case will be based upon your income, your spouse’s income, the amount of overnight time-sharing (visitation) and the needs of your children under the guidelines established by the State. If equal time-sharing (rotating custody) is ordered, child support is significantly reduced.

Alimony

The court finds it necessary to award alimony, or spousal support, in many cases. As with child support, the court will consider two factors: one party’s need and the other’s ability to pay. Both of these factors must be proven in court by the requesting spouse. Alimony may be awarded to either a husband or wife and, depending on the length of the marriage and other factors, the alimony may be permanent or for only a short duration.

Property Division

Under Florida law, the court must try to make an “equitable distribution” of marital property and debts. “Equitable” does not always mean “equal,” although that is the starting point. Many factors, including child support, custody, and alimony awards, can cause the court to make an unequal (but still equitable) division of property. The court will not generally divide the property and debts that arise outside the marriage.

Injunctions

If needed, the court can order you or your spouse to do, or not do, certain things. The court may order a party not to telephone the other, not to come to the other’s place of business, not to interfere in the other’s activities, and the like.

Attorney's Fees

The court can order one party to pay some or all of the other’s attorney’s fees. The court does this to assure that both parties have equal access to competent counsel The court does not award fees in every case; the court must first find that one party has a greater ability to pay than the other. You cannot ever be certain that the court will award fees. For this reason, and because of the great drain that fees can be on marital assets, everyone (parties and attorneys alike) should make every effort to resolve a divorce case as economically as possible.

Do's and Don'ts

There are some rather clear cut rules that apply to every divorce. Pay heed to these rules and your divorce will be easier and less painful for all involved.

Have Reasonable Expectations. You will certainly be disappointed if you expect to “win” on every issue. Rarely is either party happy about every ruling in a case. Even the best rulingsleave both parties somewhat dissatisfied. Encourage your attorney to give you a realistic projection of the outcome of your case.

Keep Communication Open with Your Spouse/Ex-Spouse. As long as you have children, you and your (ex)spouse will have to work together. Your children will suffer to the degree that you and your former spouse cannot cooperate and communicate.

Get Professional Help to Deal with Your Emotions. If you have trouble with the hostility, anger, or depression that often occurs in divorces, don’t hesitate to get counseling to help you through it. Use professional help to deal with your hostility. Don’t use the court, your attorney, or the system to vent your anger; that would be counterproductive. A good counselor can help you, and your children, get through this difficult time.

Encourage and Support Visitation. If you are the custodial parent, you have a duty to encourage visitation. You must do more than just stay out of the way or leave the choice to the children. Encourage your children to see your former spouse frequently and to enjoy the contact. Never use support or visitation as a lever or bargaining chip in dealing with the other parent.

Give Your Children a Chance. The way you and your spouse handle your divorce will have an enormous impact upon your children. If you argue and fight, their problems and pain will be magnified. By acting civilly, you can help them through one of the most difficult events of their lives.

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