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What are the grounds for a divorce?
Florida is a “no fault” state. Neither party needs to be blamed for the breakdown of the marriage. There are two grounds for divorce. The most common ground for a divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means the marriage cannot be saved with the help of counseling or medical help. An infrequently used ground for divorce is the mental incompetence of one spouse. A divorce may be granted if one of the parties has been mentally incompetent for at least the past three years.
How does a divorce begin?
You or your spouse must reside in Florida for at least six months prior to filing for a divorce. To legally proceed with obtaining a divorce you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. Florida does not require you to be “legally separated” before you begin divorce proceedings.
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one where everything has been agreed upon by you and your spouse. The agreement resolves such issues as property division, matters related to children, child support, and alimony in a way you both believe to be reasonable and fair. It is usually easier and less stressful than a contested divorce. Everyone can save money and time. If you work out an agreement, the terms of your agreement can be put into final form by a family law attorney. The guidance of a family law attorney in the discussion is usually extremely helpful and cost effective. A divorce is contested when you and your spouse have not yet reached an agreement to settle the issues or circumstances of your marriage reasonably and fairly. You have problems that have not yet been resolved. The court will then make the decision for you. This takes time and can sometimes be quite costly.
Can I use mediation to resolve some or all of the disputes that make my divorce contested?
Yes. Mediation is a process whereby you and your spouse sit down and attempt to resolve the issues involved in your divorce. Generally, it is a good idea to be represented by an attorney and for the attorney to accompany you to the mediation. The mediator is a neutral third party who will try to help you and your attorney reach an agreement in the divorce. Most of the lawyers in our firm are also Certified Divorce Mediators. A full explanation of mediation is found under What We Do in this website.
How long does a divorce take?
The length of time a divorce takes depends on the complexity of your legal and factual issues and whether both sides can agree on any of them. In an uncontested divorce where both sides reach an agreement on everything, the divorce can be over in 30 days or less. If your case requires a trial before a judge, the process can take six months or longer.
Does the mother always get custody of the children?
“Custody” has been replaced by a concept called “shared parental responsibility,” which means a court ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities for raising their child. Parents are to confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of their child will be determined jointly. You could say that both parents have “joint legal custody” under shared parenting. This does not mean the children spend an equal amount of time with each parent. Shared parental responsibility is the most commonplace relationship between parents and children. Shared parenting is appropriate when both parents are fit parents and both parents desire to have a healthy relationship with their children. It is most effective when both parents are able to cooperate in an appropriate parenting plan. The father must be given the same consideration as the mother in determining a parenting schedule for a child irrespective of the age or sex of the child. This means that mothers and fathers start out equal when determining what is in the best interest of the child. It does not mean that mothers and fathers are automatically equal in their ability to be good parents. That will depend on the facts and circumstances of your particular case. One parent is usually designated as the primary residential parent, or the parent with whom the children spend more of their time. An experienced family lawyer can give you a realistic assessment of an appropriate parenting schedule.
Can I permanently leave the state with my child?
Permanent relocation out of Florida or to a distant location which would disrupt contact between a child and the other parent might not be permitted by the Court, unless both parents agree, depending on the circumstances of your case. There is no presumption in favor of or against allowing a parent to relocate with a child. The Court looks at the positions of both parents and the best interests of the child in determining whether relocation is proper. Florida law is constantly changing in this area. Talk to an attorney about your particular circumstances.