The Law Office of Alexis Sitka, P.A.
Florida Guardianship and Family Law

FAQ's   

How long does a divorce take?
What types of divorce are there?
Must I show fault on behalf of my spouse so that I may be granted a divorce?
What about child custody?
Do I have to take a Parenting Class?
How is child support decided?
Is it possible to have the child support increased or decreased?
What about alimony?
How does the court decide how to divide the assets?
What assets and liabilities are considered Marital and Non marital?
What is mediation?
How much will it cost?


How long does a divorce take?
 

That depends on how complex or simple the case. For example, if it is uncontested it could take a minimum of several weeks. If it is contested it could take months or years. The more complex your case is, the longer it is going to take to resolve.
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What types of divorce are there? 

There are two types - Contested and Uncontested. Whether a dissolution of marriage is contested or uncontested depends on the parties themselves. If the Husband and Wife can agree as to each and every issue concerning their dissolution of marriage then they can proceed uncontested. If the parties cannot agree as to each and every issue then they must proceed with a contested dissolution of marriage. Contained within any dissolution of marriage action there are various issues which must be either litigated or negotiated between the parties. Each case must be reviewed independently and handled on an individual basis. Issues such as custody, child support, visitation, health insurance, property distribution, alimony, the marital home, domestic violence, debt division and others may arise in any particular dissolution of marriage and must be resolved either by the Court or the parties. If the parties can agree as to how each and every issue in their case is to be decided then the parties can proceed with an uncontested dissolution of marriage. If the Husband and Wife cannot agree as to any particular issue or issues then the parties cannot proceed in an uncontested manner. The procedure for an uncontested dissolution of marriage is different from one which is contested. An uncontested dissolution takes normally less time and is less expensive due to the parties having already agreed to all of the issues.
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Must I show fault on behalf of my spouse so that I may be granted a divorce? 

Florida is a no fault divorce state meaning a divorce will be granted without proof of fault if the marriage is irretrievably broken or there is mental incapacity of one of the parties.
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What about child custody? 

In Florida, parental responsibility for minor children shall be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the children. Beginning on October 1, 2008, Florida no longer designates one parent as the "primary residential parent" and the other as the "secondary residential parent." And, the terms "custody" and "visitation" are no longer used by the Family Law Courts when determining where minor children will reside. Instead, Parenting Plans set out specific details regarding decisions that impact the children such as schooling, day care, health issues, and extracurricular activities. Some plans provide additional details for parents in high conflict situations or if the parents reside a substantial distance from each other. Each Parenting Plan contains a "time sharing" schedule that specifically sets forth when the child will spend time with each parent, including specific holidays.
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Do I have to take a Parenting Class?
 

Yes.  Florida Statute 61.21 provides:

All parties to a dissolution of marriage proceeding with minor children or a paternity action which involves issues of parental responsibility shall be required to complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the entry by the court of a final judgment. The court may excuse a party from attending the parenting course for good cause.  In Lee County you must generally take the class in person unless you get court approval to take the class online.

Click Here to obtain further information about the Parenting Class.

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How is child support decided? 

Both parents are responsible for the support of their children. Florida has child support guidelines. Child support is calculated by determining the net monthly income of both parents, number of children, time-sharing schedule, daycare expenses and insurance for the children. Each parent's percentage share of the child support is determined by dividing each parent's net monthly income by the combined net income.
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Is it possible to have the child support increased or decreased? 

 Yes, this is called a modification. There must be a substantial change in circumstances to warrant an increase or decrease such as a higher salary or involuntary unemployment. It must be a substantial change.
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What about alimony? 

Either party may be granted alimony. Alimony can be bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent in nature. The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony. The court considers the following findings of fact to determine support or denial of alimony:

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

For example, if you have been married for just two years, it is very unlikely that you will be awarded permanent alimony. However, you may be entitled to rehabilitative alimony. This is temporary and is awarded based on the above factors and a plan must be presented to show that the party asking for rehabilitative alimony is going to receive training at a job or go to school to enable them to become self supporting. There is no set guideline for alimony as there is for child support. It is determined on a case by case basis.
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How does the court decide how to divide the assets? 

In Florida, a dissolution of marriage proceeding includes the distribution of marital assets and liabilities between the parties. The court begins with the premise that these will be divided equally but if there is justification for an unequal distribution then it is considered equitable and not necessarily equal. Some of the factors that the court considers to determine if the assets and liabilities are equal are as follows: 1. Duration of the marriage; 2. Economic circumstances of the parties; 3. Contribution to the marriage by each spouse, i.e. care of children, services as homemaker; 4. Whether either party interrupted their career or educational opportunities; 5. The desirability of retaining any asset, for ex. in a corporation or professional practice; 6. The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income whether the asset is marital or non marital; 7. The desirability of retaining the marital home; 8. The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition; 9. Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties. (Fla. Stat. Ch. 61)
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What assets and liabilities are considered Marital and Non marital?   

Marital assets and liabilities include: 1. Assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them; 2. The enhancement in value and appreciation of non marital assets resulting either from the efforts of either party during the marriage or from the contribution to or expenditure thereon of marital funds or other forms of marital assets, or both; 3. Inter spousal gifts during the marriage; 4. All vested and non vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs; and 5. All real property held by the parties as tenants by the entireties, whether acquired prior to or during the marriage, shall be presumed to be a marital asset.

Non marital assets and liabilities include: 1. Assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party prior to the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities; 2. Assets acquired separately by either party by non inter spousal gift, bequest, devise, or descent, and assets acquired in exchange for such assets; 3. All income derived from non marital assets during the marriage unless the income was treated, used, or relied upon by the parties as a marital asset;  4. Assets and liabilities excluded from marital assets and liabilities by valid written agreement of the parties, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities; and  5. Any liability incurred by forgery or unauthorized signature of one spouse signing the name of the other spouse. Any such liability shall be a nonmarital liability only of the party having committed the forgery or having affixed the unauthorized signature.
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What is mediation? 

Mediation is a non-adversarial process where the spouses and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party who is certified by the State of Florida to be a mediator in Family Law cases.  At such a meeting, the parties try to settle their issues such as parenting, child support, and division of assets and liabilities.  If the parties come to an agreement, it is written, and then signed by the parties, who agree to abide by it.  If the parties do not come to an agreement, it will not be held against them, nor will anything said in mediation be used against them in court.
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How much will it cost?
 

It varies from case to case.  The cost depends upon the complexity of the case.  If you and your spouse dispute a number of issues such as alimony or parenting then the divorce becomes more complex and it takes more time to complete.   

Time spent on the case will be charged at an hourly rate and, generally, an initial retainer is required to begin the case.  In addition to legal fees, you may incur costs such as court filing fees, service fees, witness fees, court reporter expenses, recording fees, mediation costs, expert fees and other expenses which are necessary to assist in the preparation of your case.

Since every case is different, you should contact the office to schedule a free initial consultation.  At that meeting, we will be able to make a better determination of the complexity of your case and fees and costs. Contact Us Today To Schedule A Free Initial Consultation.
 
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