Family Law Frequently Asked Questions

Florida Family Law FAQ'S

Do I really need to hire an attorney to represent me?

     A person has a right to represent themselves in certain family law cases. However, it may not be a good idea to do so. There are skills, experience, and legal education required to effectively bring a case from onset to completion in the court of law. It could be more costly for an attorney to fix what the parties have already done than to have an attorney from the beginning of the case.

Can anyone file for divorce in the State of Florida?

     In order to file for divorce in the State of Florida you must be a Florida resident for at least six months prior to filing for a divorce.

What makes me qualified to obtain a divorce?

     There are no qualifications that have to be met in order to obtain a divorce as long as you meet the resident requirements in the State of Florida. Florida has adopted a no-fault divorce standard. You need only show that the marriage is irretrievably broken. No other grounds are required.

How is child custody and visitation determined?

     Florida law highly promotes and encourages shared parental responsibility, which was previously referred to as "custody." Florida has now coined custody as "parental responsibility." With this model parents are encouraged to share in the decision making regarding their children. In some courts splitting the children's time equally with both parents it much more common than it was previously. The parents have the ability to make their own agreed upon decision regarding the children's time sharing, however if they can not reach a unified decision, the court will utilize the "best interest of the children" standard to determine what is best for the children regarding parental responsibility (custody) and time sharing (visitation).

How is child support determined?

     A parents child support responsibility is determined by Florida's minimum suggested guidelines. Child support is usually payable until a child reaches the age of majority which is eighteen (18) in the State of Florida, or the age of nineteen (19) if the child is still enrolled in high school.  Child support is modifiable under certain circumstances.

Can I waive child support to get my ex-spouse to waive time sharing?

No. Child support is a right that belongs to the child, not the parent, and therefore the parent can not waive it. Furthermore, failure to pay child support is not grounds to withhold time sharing from the other parent.

 What happens if a parent does not pay court-ordered child support? 

      Various enforcement mechanisms exist against these parents," including automatic withholding of the obligor’s income. The court has the power to hold a party in contempt for violating a court order. The contemnor must be allowed an opportunity to "purge" the contempt, meaning to comply with the order. If the contemnor does not purge the contempt and has the ability to pay, the court has the power of incarceration, although usually for a limited amount of time, such as six months per contempt citation.  

     Recently, Congress has enacted many new enforcement mechanisms, creating greater collaboration between federal and state governments. These include suspension of driver’s licenses and professional licenses, seizure of tax refunds, seizure of bank accounts and investment accounts. The law also improves interstate enforcement by bolstering federal services to locate parents across state lines and by requiring all states to have common paternity procedures in interstate cases. 

After my divorce can I take the children and relocate to another state/country?

     Not without a court order or agreement with the other parent to relocate. Florida law states that a parent may not change the principle residence of a child at the last order establishing or modifying time sharing or at any time after filing a pending action to establish or modify time sharing.

If the divorce is still pending can I obtain financial support from my spouse?

     If you need help with financial support or child support while your divorce is pending, then your attorney can file the appropriate documents and schedule a court hearing for a Judge or Magistrate to determine what if any temporary support you may be entitled to receive.

Who determines how assets are divided in a divorce?

     Generally, spouses are free to divide their property as they see fit in what is called a "marital settlement agreement," which is a contract between the two spouses that divides property and debts and resolves other issues of the divorce. Although many divorces begin with a high level of acrimony, a substantial majority are settled without the need for a judge to decide property or other issues. However, if the division of property cannot be settled, then the court must make the determination. Florida allows both parties to keep their "non-marital" or "separate" property. However, in doing so, one must make certain not to commingle that property.

     In dividing marital or community property, the state of Florida applies the concept of "equitable distribution," which means the court divides the marital property as it sees fair. That division may be 50-50 or something else. Some of the factors considered include: the amount of non-marital property each spouse has; each spouse’s earning power; services as a homemaker; waste and dissipation; fault; duration of the marriage; and age and health of the parties.

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AP Law Office

P.O. Box 1932, New Port Richey, FL 34656

(727) 835-6602