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Understanding the Divorce Process in Florida

Nobody goes into marriage expecting to file for divorce, but the statistics show that as many as 50 percent of Americans eventually will. Known as a “Dissolution of Marriage," all Florida divorce procedures are similar. However, the particulars of every case are different, so it’s important to have a knowledgeable family law attorney like John DeGirolamo when navigating the process.

Starting the Process

A divorce in Florida begins when one spouse states that the marriage is “irretrievably broken" or there are “irreconcilable differences” and files a Petition For Dissolution of Marriage. To complete the request, one spouse must show at least six months of Florida residency, but there aren’t any requirements to prove infidelity or abuse to file in Florida. The initial petition includes “wants” and “needs” that the filing spouse has for things such as property, alimony, child custody and child support.

Serving the Petition

After the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed by an attorney in the record, the other party must be officially served and allowed sufficient time to answer. A sheriff or other court approved server of process will deliver the petition to the opposing spouse, who has 20 days to respond. If the spouse is unavailable, an experienced divorce lawyer can be successful at finding alternative means to serve the spouse you wish to divorce. John DeGirolamo knows the due diligence necessary to locate the person and will find them.

Contested vs. Uncontested

While working with a skilled family lawyer will facilitate a smooth divorce, the biggest factor will be the level of cooperation. A Florida divorce can be either contested or uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, each person agrees to the settlement terms and everything is negotiated beforehand. Once the divorce attorney files all the paperwork with the court, it can resolve in as little as four to five weeks. A contested divorce means that the court will determine what the final settlement is, as the two parties cannot agree. This process takes longer. Depending on the local court jurisdiction, it can be six months to a year before the case even reaches a Judge. John DeGirolamo works extremely hard to obtain the soonest court dates and force opposing counsels to meet terms so as to speed up the process.

Choosing a Family Law Attorney

Some people attempt to represent themselves in a divorce, but it isn’t advisable. The average layperson does not have a full grasp on the laws pertaining to Florida divorce and will not be able to assess their rights and responsibilities adequately. A divorce attorney will ensure that their client has a strong case with proper advocacy. Each half of the couple should have separate representation to avoid a conflict of interest. The court will appoint an attorney in cases of financial hardship, and the defending spouse could also be ordered to pay attorney fees and costs.

Understanding Restraining Orders

If there is violence in a relationship, especially if children are involved, it is critical to consult a divorce lawyer. To protect the at-risk partner, John DeGirolamo may advise you to seek a restraining order. A temporary restraining order can mitigate immediate risk and provide safety to you and your child(ren). Once a Judge hears the case, usually within days, a permanent order can be issued that will bar the violent partner from entering the family home or even being in the vicinity of the injured spouse of child(ren). There does not need to be a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in place to file a restraining order.

Child Support and Custody

There is no bigger point of contention in a divorce than the care and custody of children. If both parents don’t agree, a good family lawyer will ensure that the law is understood. There are legal parameters for child support settlements, called the “child support guidelines.” Also, the Judge can insist that mediation with a parenting coordinator occur, and if an agreement is reached, then the finalized parenting plan is legally binding. Each parent is given consideration for custody in Florida, but the courts favor arrangements where children have one permanent home. If a parent is not paying child support as ordered, the custodial parent cannot refuse visitation. However, the family law attorney can request that the court garnishes their wages or hold them in contempt.

Assets, Alimony and Spousal Support 

Florida uses principles of equitable distribution to determine assets and liabilities in a divorce. In general, each spouse shares 50 percent of the property, even if one spouse did not work outside the home. The court may award the custodial parent with ownership of the home, and this may affect the distribution of assets even when both parties are still legally responsible for the mortgage. A Judge has significant leeway when determining alimony awards and can require anything from short-term to permanent payments from the primary breadwinner in the marriage. It is common, however, to award durational alimony to match the length of the marriage.

There is nobody more qualified in Florida Family and Divorce law, including Alimony and Spousal Support than Attorney John DeGirolamo. If you still have questions about the divorce process, you can meet with our experienced team without a consultation fee. Call us today to find out how this qualified divorce attorney can help you.

Serving individuals and families in the Tampa Bay area and throughout the Hillsborough County, our firm represents parties requesting spousal support, as well as those opposing an award of spousal support.