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How Long Does Divorce Take in Florida?

Every divorce is different, and the length of time it takes to complete your divorce will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • What county will your divorce be filed in? Each county in Florida has different family court judges and different dockets. It may take longer to obtain a divorce in some counties.
  • Is your divorce uncontested? Divorces without significant issues can move through the system more quickly, even in as little as a few weeks.
  • Are there unresolved issues? The more issues that need to be resolved, such as custody or support issues, the longer your divorce can take. This is especially true if you are forced to go to court to protect your rights.

If you speak to a lawyer at our firm, we can give you an estimate of how long your divorce should take in light of your specific situation and location.

What Are the Requirements for Filing Divorce in Florida?

In order to file for divorce in Florida, you must be able to prove two things. First, one spouse must have lived as a Florida resident for at least six months. This period must be immediately prior to the divorce. If both spouses are residents of other states immediately before the divorce, you may need to file in another jurisdiction. Second, to obtain a divorce, one spouse must be able to prove that the marriage is In Florida, you do not need to prove fault, which can be difficult to prove.

You do not need to have an attorney to file for divorce in Florida. However, an attorney can guide you through the legal process and answer your questions. A lawyer can also help you make sure that your rights are protected in your divorce settlement. If you are involved in a complex, contested divorce, it is especially important that you seek legal counsel. If you go to court, you will want an advocate on your side who can look out for your interests.

What Is the First Step Toward Getting Divorced in Florida?

The first step is the decision to get a divorce. You may have reached this decision on your own, you may have decided to divorce as a couple or your spouse may have reached this decision without you. Regardless of the situation, this decision will start the process of obtaining a divorce in Florida. Next, you and your spouse will need to:

  • Determine if you qualify for divorce in Florida— One spouse will need to have been at resident of Florida for at least six months prior to the divorce. Also, you or your spouse will need to be able to prove that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • Choose whether or not to work with an attorney— An attorney can help you resolve the issues in your divorce and ensure that your rights are protected into the future.
  • File a petition for divorce— One spouse will need to file the petition for divorce with the court in the appropriate jurisdiction. This will start the legal process.

Can I Stay in My Home During Divorce?

Each divorce is different, and whether you stay in your home will depend on your situation. If you and your spouse are able to reside in the same home during the divorce, then you can continue living there. This is not often possible, however. You and your spouse may need to reach an agreement about who will live in the marital home.

In your divorce, your home may be marital property, which will be divided during your divorce. Marital property includes assets and debts acquired during the marriage. If your home was purchased prior to your marriage, you may be able to keep it after the divorce. If the home was purchased during the marriage, then you and your spouse will need to determine whether to sell the home or have one spouse keep it. When one spouse keeps the home, it is also important to allocate the mortgage debt for the home equitably.

If I Cannot Find My Spouse, Can I Still Get a Divorce?

Even if you cannot find your spouse, you may be able to obtain a divorce. The process for obtaining a divorce in this situation is more difficult, however. You will need to be able to prove to a judge that you are unable to locate your spouse. This is not as simple as stating that you don’t know where your spouse is located. You will need to show that you performed a thorough search for him or her by investigating evidence such as:

  • The last known address of your spouse and following up on any forwarding address from the U.S. Postal Service
  • Known relatives and associates of your spouse who may know of his or her whereabouts
  • Tax, utility and other public records
  • Records at hospitals and law enforcement agencies where your spouse may have resided
  • Internet profiles and databases

Next, you will need to publish a notice of divorce in a newspaper for four consecutive weeks. After publication and the thorough search, you will be able to file and complete your divorce.

What If My Spouse Becomes Violent or Harasses Me?

If domestic violence or harassment occurs, we can help. It may be possible to obtain an injunction for protection, which is also known as a restraining order. You can obtain an injunction for protection if your spouse, a family member or a member of your household has physically abused or assaulted you or your child. Harassment and threats of violence can also be grounds for a restraining order under Florida law.

Law enforcement and courts take cases of domestic violence and abuse very seriously. If you are a victim, we can provide you with the compassionate support you need throughout your case.

Additionally, if your spouse has violated an injunction for protection, we can help. Our attorneys are experienced at enforcing injunctions through the court system. We will work diligently to ensure you receive the protection you need under the law.

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Divorce

If your spouse has abused you or your child, we can help protect your during your divorce. It may be possible to limit the other parent’s parenting time and time-sharing with your child.

How Is Child Support Calculated in a Divorce?

The Florida child support guidelines provide a formula for calculating child support. In general, this formula looks at the income of the non-custodial parent and the number of children who need support. Since there is a set formula, our attorneys can provide you with a clear picture of how much you should expect to receive or pay in child support. In addition to child support, there may be circumstances where a non-custodial parent needs to help pay for specific costs. One example of this is a situation where the child develops a serious illness that requires costly medical care. In these situations, the non-custodial parent may need to help cover those unanticipated costs.

Also, there are limited situations where the courts may choose to deviate from the formula for child support. For example, if a child has special needs, he or she may require additional support. On the other side, if a parent is receiving additional support as a result of a previous divorce, it may reduce the child support in the current divorce settlement.

Can I Relocate With My Children Out of State Before or During Divorce?

It is possible to relocate, but there must be open communication with the other parent throughout the legal process. A large part of any divorce involving children is the creation of a parenting plan. It is vital that this parenting plan include information about when each parent will spend time with the child and how the parents will stay in touch with the child. Moving out of state is a big change, and it can make it difficult for the other parent to see his or her child. It is possible to use technology and tools to maintain regular contact and help reinforce the relationship that each parent has with the child. Some options include Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime and other communication technologies that help parents stay in touch with their children.

In addition to the communication element, your time-sharing schedule will need to account for the child’s ability to spend time with both parents. You will need to reach agreements regarding vacations, school breaks and holidays.

Our attorneys can help you negotiate and prepare for an out-of-state move, whether you are the parent moving or you are the parent remaining in Florida. We also assist parents who want to contest a move out of state.

Am I Entitled to Alimony?

Whether or not you are entitled to alimony will depend on your situation. Alimony is not automatic. In determining whether alimony is appropriate, courts will look at a number of factors such as:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Education and vocational skills of each spouse
  • Contributions to the marriage in terms of child-rearing and housekeeping

These are just a few of the factors a court may examine. Additionally, there are different types of alimony that may be provided.

Bridge-the-gap alimony is provided to a spouse who simply needs help getting back on his or her feet after a divorce. Rehabilitative alimony is another type of short-term alimony that can help provide support while a spouse learns new job skills. The third type of alimony is durational, where the alimony only lasts for a short period of time. Finally, permanent alimony is available for those situations where a couple has been married for many years and one spouse requires support on a permanent basis.

What if My Spouse and I Started a Business During Our Marriage and We Are Now Getting a Divorce

In general, any business interests acquired during a marriage qualify as marital property and will be divided during divorce. This means that if you and your spouse started a business together, it will likely constitute marital property. Determining whether property is marital or nonmarital can be difficult, and it is important to work with an experienced attorney to characterize and assess the value of your business in divorce. At Moraitis & Raimondi, LLP, our attorneys work with business valuation experts in order to understand the full value of a business.

Why Is a Business Valuation Necessary?

Proper valuation of the business is essential to ensuring that your marital assets are equitably distributed. Particularly with small businesses, it can be difficult to assess the full value of a business and to determine what part of that value is marital properly. This can be even more difficult if there are other partners in the closely-held or family business. By taking the time to value the business correctly today, we can avoid future problems and lessen the impact on your business.

Do Grandparents Have Visitation or Custody Rights in Florida?

Grandparents do not automatically have rights under the law; however, they can acquire visitation rights under certain circumstances. For example, if the parents get divorced, it may be possible for the grandparents to gain visitation rights. With all visitation and custody issues, the central factor is whether it is in the best interests of the child. For that reason, the court will weigh a number of factors when determining whether to grant visitation rights, such as the relationship with the child and the health of the grandparents.

Grandparents do not have custody rights in Florida, but they can adopt their grandchild in limited situations. The attorneys at Moraitis & Raimondi, LLP, can help you understand your rights and provide you with guidance throughout the process. We understand the importance of your relationship with your grandchild, and we will work diligently through the legal system to help you keep that relationship into the future.

How Will Our Debts Be Handled During Divorce?

Debts are divided similarly to assets during a divorce. When you get a divorce, all assets and debts will need to be characterized and valued. Characterization involves determining whether debts are marital, which means that it was acquired during the marriage, or nonmarital. Nonmarital property is an asset or dent that was acquired prior to the marriage or through an exception to the marital property laws. Marital debts and assets are divided equitably during a divorce. This means that mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and other forms of debts could be divided in your divorce.

Equitable division does not mean a 50-50 split of your debts. Instead, it may make sense for one spouse to take on more or less debt given other factors in the divorce. For instance, if one spouse is keeping the house, it may make sense to allocate the mortgage debt to that spouse.

How debt will be divided in your divorce will depend on many factors. We can help you understand your options and what you can expect during and after your divorce.

If My Spouse and I Divorce, Will I Have to Split My Retirement Plan or Stocks?

Whether you need to divide your retirement assets in divorce will depend on a number of factors. First, is any part of your retirement portfolio considered marital property? In other words, did you acquire any value in your retirement portfolio during your marriage? If so, that portion may be subject to equitable distribution. Additionally, depending on other assets and debts divided in your divorce, it may not make sense to divide your retirement assets. The division of property in a divorce in Florida is based on what is equitable. Depending on your situation, dividing retirement accounts may not make sense.

If retirement assets do need to be divided, they may not need to be divided immediately. It is possible to create a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to divide the retirement funds when the plan vests. This means that you do not need to cash in on your retirement funds today and can still enjoy the value of your retirement planning in the future.

Must I Keep My Spouse on My Health Insurance Plan During Divorce?

You do not need to keep your spouse on your health insurance plan during or after the divorce. When the divorce is finalized, however, your spouse may qualify for COBRA coverage. This coverage can provide health insurance for your spouse for up to three years. Your insurance may charge a fee for COBRA coverage depending on the terms of your health insurance policy. Health insurance can be particularly valuable to your spouse, especially if you have children on your policy. During your divorce, you should work to reach an agreement about how health insurance will be handled into the future.

Our attorneys are skilled negotiators who can help you reach an amicable agreement with your spouse regarding health insurance issues.

How Is Property Divided in Florida?

In Florida, marital assets and debts are subject to equitable distribution during divorce. Marital property can include any asset or debt acquired during the course of your marriage, such as:

  • Your marital home and other real estate
  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Art and antiques
  • Investments, bank accounts and deferred income
  • Retirement assets
  • Mortgages and other loans
  • Medical bills and credit card debt

The first step to divided property under Florida law is to determine whether it is marital or nonmarital. Nonmarital property is excluded from the divorce. Marital property must then be valued so it can be divided equitably between both spouses.

What is equitable will depend on your situation and your goals. It does not mean that everything will necessarily be split equally, though that may be appropriate. Instead, the court will weigh all of the factors and determine what division makes sense in your case. You can also make decisions regarding the division of property outside of the courtroom, through negotiations or mediation. Our attorneys can help you through the process and act as your advocates inside and outside of the courtroom.