Some clients ask me what are the common issues that the Court seeks to determine in a divorce case in Florida. Some divorce cases transpire uneventfully and resolve with little difficulty while others last for years and have hundreds of pleadings where seemingly everything is at issue. What you will spend in legal fees on a divorce case is largely based on the reasonableness of the parties involved to get on the same page with regard to a resolution. There are many, many factors which can have an effect on this, including the lawyers that are chosen by each party to a case. However, in even the most complicated and litigious cases, certain common issues are present. This discussion is meant to simply identify some of the basic issues that are involved in most cases.
A primary issue in most divorce cases is equitable distribution, or in other words, how should the parties involved split the assets and liabilities that have accumulated during the marriage in a fair manner. For instance, if the couple bought a house together, does one party keep it, or is it sold and the proceeds divided? With regard to credit card debt, are both equally responsible, or did one person come into the marriage with a larger amount that should be accounted for going forward? Generally the parties complete financial affidavits and participate in mandatory disclosure in order to help the attorneys and the court get a comprehensive picture of the finances of the couple involved. If a couple has no significant property or debt that has been accumulated during the marriage, equitable distribution may be fairly simple and uncontested. In the opposite case, if a couple has a great deal of financial assets, business holdings, and debts, proper financial discovery could take years and involve multiple experts in the absence of any agreement between the parties.
Another primary issue is alimony, better known as spousal support. Alimony is frequently a contentious point because the very idea irritates some people. The reason being, many feel that they should not have to provide support for a spouse that they no longer wish to spend time with. The Court engages in an analysis of multiple factors in order to determine whether alimony is appropriate. Some of the factors include the length of the marriage, whether one party made sacrifices to benefit the other’s education or career, whether one party made sacrifices to his or her career in order to be the primary caretaker of the minor children born of the marriage, and a host of others. The Court also considers what type of alimony may be appropriate based on these facts. There are different types of alimony awards including rehabilitative, lump sum, or permanent. This is another area that sometimes gives rise to prolonged litigation in the absence of an agreement by the parties.
If there are children born of the marriage, the Court must also engage the issues of child support and time sharing, the latter of which was previously known as custody. Child support is relatively straightforward in Florida as it is based on a formula which considers the total income of the parties, the percentage of that income that each party makes, the number of minor children involved, and who is to be the primary residential parent.
As you may expect, the time sharing determinations can be very argumentative if each party tries to assert that he or she should be the party that the children spend more time with. Florida requires the parties to abide by a parenting plan which explicitly sets forth minimum time sharing requirements that each parent has with the minor child or children involved. Every holiday, spring and summer break, weekend, and weekday in accounted for. If the parties are not willing to agree, the Court will determine a parenting plan it deems to be in the best interests of the minor child or children involved.
These are some of the basic key issues involved with a divorce case in Florida. This has been a short summary, but from this list alone, it is easy to see just how much room for disagreement there is. A couple that can work these things out will have much less in the way of legal fees, as compared to a couple that will run to court dozens of time to ask the court to make decisions. Most cases in Florida settle at mediation or before because eventually, ideally, some reasonable common ground is found, even between parties that can no longer get along. For those that simply cannot settle their differences, a judge that knows comparatively little about the people involved will make decision as to some of the most personal aspects of their lives. For this reason, most would rather have a greater role in settling their differences before trial.
For more information about your divorce case and the options that may be available to you, contact the law office of Eric A. Kay for a free consultation at 954-330-8994. We look forward to helping you through your situation, however simple or difficult.