Over the years that I have practiced family law, I have met with many potential new clients for free consultations to discuss their concerns and answer any questions they might have regarding seeking a dissolution of marriage (the fancy legal term for divorce) from their spouse. During these meetings with potential clients, I have noticed a typical string of questions, which I like to label as “misconceptions about divorce.” I thought it would be helpful to clear up these misconceptions for anyone that is considering filing for a divorce. Here are the top 3 misconceptions (or myths) about divorce in Florida:
“I can’t get a divorce because the other party won’t sign the papers.” The most common misconception about divorce is that people seem to be under the impression that both parties must “sign” the divorce, sometimes referred to as papers, or they will be unable to have their marriage dissolved by the court. I am convinced that this idea comes from movies. There is also the possibility that manipulative spouses make uninformed or intentionally misleading threats that they will not grant the other party a divorce in the hope of deterring the party wanting to leave the relationship from filing for a divorce. The truth is, all you need to get a divorce in Florida is an “irretrievably broken” marriage. Everyone that has an “irretrievably broken” marriage has the freedom to divorce their spouse in Florida at any time. In simpler terms, “irretrievably broken” means you no longer want to be in the relationship – even if the other party does. Welcome to the twenty-first century.
“Adultery is a huge factor in Divorce proceedings.” Another common concern that comes up in my consultations is whether adultery plays a significant role in a divorce. The answer to this question is a little more complicated than the previous; however, it probably doesn’t play the role you’re envisioning. You are not automatically punished by the court if you commit adultery. On the other hand, you will not automatically get an advantage over the other party only because they cheated on you during the marriage. Florida is a “no-fault” state, which means that the court can dissolve your marriage without placing fault on either party. However, adultery may affect some other areas of the divorce such as determining what is in the “best interest of the children” when deciding how the parents will share time with the children. Additionally, adultery may be taken into consideration by the court when deciding how to divide the parties’ marital assets and liabilities. Normally, the court has to divide all marital assets and liabilities equally, but if it is proven to the court that the party committing the adultery was dissipating marital assets by paying for trips, gifts, rent or car payments, etc. for the “lover”, then the court may unevenly divide the assets by distributing fewer assets to the party that was committing the adultery. Finally, adultery may affect the amount of alimony paid from one party to the other because it is a factor that the court is allowed to consider when determining alimony in a divorce. It is important to note that adultery is only a factor considered in all three areas mentioned above. By no means is adultery an assured loss for the cheater and a guaranteed win for his or her spouse. A skilled attorney can be persuasive in their argument no matter on which side of that argument they find themselves.
Understanding “parental responsibility and time-sharing” v. “full custody” - The last misconception about divorce that is worth mentioning is the term “custody.” Florida Family law no longer uses the term “custody.” Instead, the law requires the development of a “Parenting Plan” that includes a “Time Sharing Schedule,” based on the best interest of the child(ren). Many potential clients sit across the table from me and tell me “I want full custody of my child.” Often when I ask them to tell me more about what they mean, I find that what they truly want is for the child to live with them the majority of the time. So, in Florida, that would mean that what they want is a “majority of the time-sharing schedule.” A “Time-Sharing” or “time-sharing schedule” in Florida relate to what most people refer to as custody. It is a nicer way to label the time a divorced parent spends with his or her children without allowing one parent to feel they had more rights over the children than the other. If you tell me you want full custody of your child, legally that would mean you do not want the other party to share any time with the child. Additionally, custody refers to decision-making, legally called “parental responsibility.” This term relates to the right a parent has to make decisions regarding their children. Again, if you say you want “full custody,” you are telling me that legally you do not want the other parent to have any rights to make any decisions regarding the children or to have any time-sharing with the child (which is usually only sought in extreme circumstances). “Custody,” just seems to be a misused term.
If you are getting a divorce, please schedule a free consultation with Longwell Lawyers to get informed about your rights.