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FAQs About Divorce

I live in Florida and my spouse lives out of state. I want to get divorced. Can I file for divorce in Florida even though my spouse has never lived in Florida?

Yes, you can. Only one party has to have been a resident of the State of Florida for more than six months prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. However, the court in Florida can only grant you a divorce and cannot decide any financial issues, since the court does not have the power to compel your spouse to come to Florida to defend themselves on financial issues. If you need financial issues resolved, you’re going to have to file in the state where your spouse resides.

I’ve been putting money into my retirement account and have a pension at my job. Is my spouse entitled to any of that money? It doesn’t seem fair!

Yes, your spouse is entitled to one-half the amount that was accumulated in your retirement and pension during the marriage. Like it or not, savings is a marital asset. Whether it’s a savings account, IRA, 401k, pension, annuity or anything else, if it was acquired during the marriage it belongs equally to both of you.

I was divorced a few years ago and now I’ve been offered a job in another state. Can I move and take the kids with me?

No, you can’t. You have to file a Petition for Modification with the Court, and ask for permission to relocate. Whenever you are moving more than 50 miles (as the crow flies) from where you lived when the divorce was final, you need the consent of the other parent or court permission. The good news is that the Court works on an expedited schedule in relocation cases, and you are entitled to a final determination in no more than 90 days.

I’ve been married for 18 years, and I make a lot more money than my husband does. Will I have to pay alimony? I thought only men paid alimony! How long and how much will I have to pay?

Alimony is awarded in cases where one party does not make enough income to support them, and the other party has an ability to contribute to their support. It is not based on gender. So if you make a great deal more than your husband, and he cannot live on the income that he earns, you may very well have to pay him alimony to contribute to his support. How much depends on how much he needs to pay his expenses. As of August 2016, Florida law provides that marriages over 17 years in length are “long term”, and the person needing alimony is presumed to need it for the rest of their life. Marriages of shorter than 17 years duration but more than 7 years are considered “moderate term”, and by statute the award of alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage. Marriages of less than 7 years are considered “short term” and the award of alimony is generally for no more than 2 years.

If I received an inheritance from my parents, is my spouse entitled to half of it?

Not unless you put the money in an account titled in both your names. As long as you’ve maintained that money in an account titled only in your name, it is a non-marital asset and your spouse is not entitled to any of it.

I owned my house before my wife and I got married. I put a down payment on it and it had a mortgage that was paid from my income during the marriage. It has always been in my name alone. Does my wife have a claim to my house? It has gone up in value a lot since I bought it, especially since we put in a pool and remodeled the house during the marriage.

While your house is a non-marital asset and therefore will remain your property after the divorce, your wife has a claim for her marital share, which was created from your use of your income (which was marital money earned during the marriage) to pay down the mortgage, which increased your equity in the house during the marriage. There is a formula to calculate the exact amount of her interest, which uses the down payment, the fair market value of the house when you bought it, the fair market value of the house on the date you filed for divorce, and the amount by which the mortgage was reduced with marital funds during the marriage to determine the dollar amount of her interest in the property.

Do I really have to have a written Parenting Plan? Why can’t we just leave it open and liberal?

Courts in Florida want you to avoid future disagreements, especially over how you spend time with your children. A written Parenting Plan and Time-Sharing schedule insures that if there ever is a disagreement in the future, there is a specific schedule that tells you who the children are supposed to be with on a particular day. It doesn’t mean that you can’t deviate from the written Plan. As long as the two of you are in agreement, you can do whatever you want. But a specific written schedule avoids a lot of headaches in the future!

What if we can’t agree on some things but we don’t want to hire lawyers and go to court?

Mediation is an excellent option for divorcing couples who need some extra help in working out their differences and putting it all in a proper legal agreement that is enforceable by the court. A Florida Bar Certified Family Mediator can guide you through the negotiations, and help facilitate agreement. Mediators usually work at an hourly rate. They do not give the parties legal advice, but they do offer creative solutions to common problems that you may not have considered.

Our lives are complicated, and we both think we would benefit from legal advice that only lawyers can provide, but we don’t want a war. We have children to think about. How can we resolve this complex situation without going to court?

Collaborative Divorce is another alternative method for parties to reach agreement and get divorced without going to court. Attorneys for both parties are specially trained to work together as a team to help the family while offering targeted legal advice to their own clients. A neutral facilitator with training from the mental health perspective works with the team to guide the discussions, which are always child and family-focused. In financially complex situations, a neutral financial professional might become part of the team to work with the family to generate financial options for the family. Collaborative Divorce is an outstanding model for cooperative problem solving and negotiation for families going through divorce.

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