Getting married is relatively easy: You can go down to the courthouse and be done in a matter of minutes. However, getting out of that marriage can take months—or even years. If you live in Florida and are considering divorce, you may be facing a long road ahead. However, if you are knowledgeable about the divorce laws in Florida, you may be able to navigate around the potholes and make the bumpy ride a lot smoother.
Residency Requirements for Divorce in Florida
In order to get a divorce in Florida:
- Either you or your spouse must be a resident of Florida, and must have resided in the state for a minimum of six (6) months before filing for divorce.
Grounds for Divorce in Florida
Florida is a no-fault divorce state. In order to be granted a divorce in Florida, one of the following circumstances must be met:
- The marriage must be irretrievably broken
- One of the spouses has suffered from mental incapacity for at least three (3) years
Equitable Distribution of Marital Property (Distribution of Assets)
Florida divorce law states that all property which was acquired during the marriage shall be divided equitably between the two parties, except where the parties have entered a prenuptial or antenuptial agreement. It is important to note that equitable distribution does not mean equal distribution. This means that each spouse will not end up with an equal share, but rather what the judge deems to be equitable, or fair.
There are a number of factors that influence the judge’s decision, including:
- Duration of marriage
- The economic circumstances of each party
- The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including the contributions to the children’s education an care as a homemaker
- Interruption of education or careers by either party
- The contribution of one spouse to the personal education or career of the other
- The desirability of retaining any asset, such as interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice free from interference or claim by the other party.
- The contribution of each spouse to the enhancement or production income or marital assets
- Importance of custodial parent to keep primary residence and household effects
- The wasteful dissipation of assets or marital property after filing or within two (2) years of filing for divorce
- Any other factors deemed necessary by the courts in order to ensure equitable distribution
Spousal Support in Florida
Not all divorces in Florida include spousal support, or alimony. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis and may include factors such as:
- Age of spouses
- Health of spouses
- Duration of marriage
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The ability and amount of time required for the spouse seeking support to acquire sufficient education and training to become self-sufficient
- Contributions of each party to the marriage
Child Custody in Florida
When minor children are involved in a marriage, the courts will do everything in their ability to lessen the emotional trauma to the children. If the parents are unable to agree on child custody, the court will determine custody.
Florida law requires parents of minor children to complete a Parent Education and Family Stabilization course. This course is designed to teach parents ways to minimize the emotional impact of the divorce on their children. Each parent must complete the course before a divorce will be granted.
The court shall order that parental responsibility be shared by both parents, unless it is determined that this would be detrimental to the child. Even though both parents will share responsibility, one parent may be awarded the ultimate responsibility to oversee the child’s welfare, especially when considering the child’s:
- Primary residence
In Florida, grandparents also have the right to request visitation; however, the court will not order that the child remain in a certain state or jurisdiction solely for the purpose of allowing visitation.
In the event that the primary residential parent would like to move, the following factors will be considered:
- Whether the move will be likely to increase the quality of life of the child and/or residential parent
- The extent to which visitation rights have been allowed and exercised up to this point
- Whether the residential parent will be likely to comply with new, alternative visitation arrangements once they have moved from the jurisdiction
- Whether the alternative visitation agreements will allow a meaningful relationship to continue between the child and the secondary parent
- Whether the move is in the child’s best interests
- Whether either or both of the parents can afford the child’s cost of transportation between the parties
Child Support in Florida
Florida child support guidelines are based upon the “Income Shares” model. This means that the amount of support is split between the two parents. The percentage of contribution is based upon each parent’s incomes, including their:
- Disability benefits
- Workers’ compensation
- Unemployment payments
- Pension or retirement
- Social security benefits
- Spousal support from a previous marriage
- Interest and dividends
- Rental income
- Income from royalties, estates or trusts
The amount of each parent’s income is then added together to determine a combined net income. By using this income, as well as factoring in the number of children, the court determines the required amount of support. The percentage required from each parent is determined by his or her income in comparison to the other.
For example, the child support payment for a couple that makes $5000 per month combined income with one child will be $1000. If Parent A makes $2000 per month and Parent B makes $3000 per month, then Parent A will be responsible for 40%, or $400 per month, and Parent B will be responsible for 60%, or $600 per month.