Family Law FAQs

What is the difference between an annulment and a divorce proceeding?

An annulment is instituted for the purpose of determining by a judicial ruling that a valid marriage never took place due to some defect that existed at the time the parties were married. By contrast, a divorce proceeding is instituted to terminate a valid marriage for reasons that occurred after the marriage was entered into.

I just moved to Florida and wish to file for divorce. Does Florida divorce law have a residency requirement?

Yes. Florida does have a residency requirement to obtain a divorce. One of the parties to the marriage must live six months or more in prior to the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage.

Does the fact that Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state mean that marital misconduct is never at issue in divorce proceedings?

No. Although a party may file and obtain a divorce in Florida merely by establishing that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one of the parties is mentally unfit, the issue of fault and any marital misconduct by the parties may be considered in determining issues of alimony and property distribution.

What is "equitable distribution" during a divorce?

Florida is an "equitable distribution" state, which means that a court will equitably distribute the parties' marital property as part of the divorce proceeding. Marital property covers tangible and intangible property acquired by either or both spouses during the marriage. Each spouse usually can retain his or her nonmarital property. This means (1) property acquired before marriage, (2) property acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance, or (3) any property that the spouses designate as nonmarital property in a written agreement.

How is alimony determined in Florida?

In awarding alimony, Florida courts consider all relevant economic factors, as well as any factors necessary to achieve equity and justice between the parties. Among the factors that courts evaluate are:

(1) The standard of living established during the marriage

(2) The marriage's duration

(3) The parties' respective ages and physical and emotional conditions

(4) The parties' respective financial resources, including marital and nonmarital assets and liabilities distributed to each party

(5) All sources of income available to either party

(6) Each party's contribution to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education and career-building of a party

With respect to the duration of the parties' marriage, a long-term marriage gives rise to a presumption in favor of permanent alimony. A short marriage raises a presumption against permanent alimony.

How is child support determined?

In Florida, child support is based on the combined income of the parents and how many children that parent is responsible for supporting. In general, child support is determined by a mathematical formula comparing the respective gross incomes or potential gross incomes of the parties and the overnights each parent has with the child or children. Monthly expenses such as debts of each party are not taken into account unless they directly relate to the care of the children, such as child care or health insurance.

Who is responsible for child support before and after divorce?

In Florida, both parents have a duty to support their children during the marriage and after divorce. After divorce, an award of child support from one parent to the other enforces that duty.

What are the rights of parents who do not live with their children?

Usually, a judge will order "shared parental responsibility" for minor children when parents separate or divorce. This means that both parents have a right to have full information about the children and to share in making major decisions for the children. The fact that a child lives primarily with one parent does not give that parent greater authority in the child's upbringing. A divorce decree usually directs that the parent who does not live with the child on a permanent basis has the same rights and equal authority to make all important decisions regarding the child as the parent with whom the child lives.

How is paternity determined and what is my right?

A blood test can be conducted to determine the father of a child. The test has an extremely high degree of accuracy. Once paternity is established, the parties can agree or the court can determine their respective parental responsibilities and support obligations.

What is mediation?

Mediation is the process of working with a neutral third party to help parties reach an agreement on outstanding issues. If mediation is not successful, the parties must seek resolution through the court. The information discussed in mediation is confidential and cannot be used against you in subsequent legal proceedings.