DIVORCE IN PLAIN ENGLISH

(Sponsored by the Law Office of Arturo R. Alfonso)

It is important for a customer hiring a lawyer for a divorce case to understand how the process works in plain English. This writing is a plain overview of the divorce process meant for you to understand.

What is a divorce?

A divorce is a legal procedure that terminates your marriage based on irreconcilable differences.

What are the requirements for a divorce?

The requirements for a divorce are the filing spouse (Petitioner) must have lived in Florida for at least 6 months before the filing of the divorce and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

What is a contested divorce vs. uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which there are no issues for the court to decide such as the parties have reached an agreement on all issues and the agreement is incorporated in writing or in the case of a divorce with no children and no property.

A contested divorce is a divorce where the parties cannot agree and the issues are litigated in court.

How do I get service of process on my spouse?

Service of process can be obtained by having the divorce papers served personally on the other spouse by a process server or sheriff; by substitute service which means service on a person over the age of 15 years of age living at the same household or if the spouse cannot be located, then by publication where service is published in the legal newspaper for 4 weeks. To serve someone by publication, the spouse wanting to serve by publication must sign a diligent search affidavit attesting to the different searches made to find the missing spouse.

Once served, how long does a spouse have to file an answer to the petition for divorce?

Twenty days from date of service.

What happens if the spouse does not file a response within 20 days?

A default can be entered by the Court. A default is an order establishing an admission by the party defaulted of the facts in the petition and the spouse that obtained the default can proceed to the Judge without the other person.

What if there are children involved?

The Court will consider the best interest of the children in making determinations of timesharing and parental responsibility. Parental responsibility will be shared unless a spouse can show that sole parental responsibility is in the best interest of the children. Parental responsibility may be apportioned to the spouses based on which parent is better able to handle that responsibility. For example, education may be given solely to the father and medical needs to the mother. Timesharing is the apportionment of visits between the parents during the year. Timesharing is awarded based on the schedule of the parents and the best interests of the children.

Child Support

Child support may be paid by either parent based on the net incomes of the parents and the amount of timesharing during the year. Child support is based on the net incomes of the parties. The net incomes of both parents are combined to determine the minimum child support obligation of the paying parent in accordance with the child support tables. The tables are called the child support guidelines. Also calculated into the child support award is the health insurance cost of the child and any day care expense. Also, if the parent has 76 or more overnight visits in a year, the table builds in a credit to compensate for the substantial time the child is with that parent.

Alimony

Alimony is an award of money paid by one spouse to another to meet the financial needs of the spouse who needs the award. Alimony is based on need and ability to pay. Need is established by the financial circumstances of the spouse in need. Ability to pay by the paying spouse must be established. There are different types of alimony under Florida law and attorney Arturo R. Alfonso can explain the various types.

Equitable Distribution of Property and Liabilities

During the marriage, the spouses own personal and real property and they incur debts and liabilities. These are called marital assts and liabilities and are subject to distribution by the Court. The Court starts with the presumption that the distribution is equal unless you can show proof that the distribution should be unequal.

Some properties and liabilities may be premarital (before the marriage). These assets and liabilities are taken out of the distribution scheme and set aside and awarded to the spouse who owned those assets prior to the marriage. However, sometimes premarital assets may be converted to martial assets and subject to distribution. This is on a case by case basis and the Court must take evidence to make the determination

Attorney Fees

The law in Florida states that just because a person cannot afford to pay attorney fees should not be precluded from getting divorced. The spouse that has the greatest ability to pay for attorney fees may be obligated to pay the other spouse’s attorney fees. This determination is based on the need of the party requesting attorney fees and the ability to pay of the paying spouse.