Florida Family Law

Most people encounter Florida family law when they intend to divorce, followed by the need to resolve the care of children. Here are the basics on these needs.

First, at least one of the marriage partners must have lived in Florida at least 6 months before filing for divorce. (Military
personnel stationed out of Florida do not lose the status of resident.)

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

This document constitutes the filing for divorce. The petitioning spouse need not show fault on the part of the other partner. In Florida, the petitioner must simply state that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Filing includes claims for alimony, which is a highly contentious issue in Florida and one watched closely by practitioners of family law. Florida law requires service of process of papers on the non-petitioning spouse and the couple's attendance (not necessarily together) at a Parent Education and Family Stabilization course.

If the parties can agree on caring for the children and allocating obligations and assets between themselves, divorce can be finalized in a few weeks or months. A divorce contested in court takes longer to complete. Mediation, either court ordered or requested by the parties, can facilitate the resolution of disagreements.

If no children and no claims for alimony are involved, the parties can file a Petition for Simplified Dissolution.

Divorced Parents and Florida Law

When parents divorce, Florida family law deems one thing paramount: the child's best interest.

Rather than sole custody and visitation, today's family law has evolved to encourage shared parental responsibility and time.  Modern policy understands in today's society both spouses have parenting roles, and, optimally, divorced parents are both able to maintain close relationships with their children.

It is possible to convince a court to limit the time shared with the other party, if limitations serve the child's best interest. This typically entails documentation showing the other spouse is unreliable or presents risk to the child.

When deciding on details of the child's future care, a court considers whether both or one of the child's parents will make diligent efforts to help the child receive care, time, and healthful relationships with both parents. The court will also look at how the caregiving was already allocated between the parents, to minimize disruption to the child's life. The financial stability of each parent and their capacity to balance work and child rearing after the divorce also guides a judge's decisions about a child's future.

The court will approve a parenting plan that allocates time between the divorced spouses and also directs future decisions about the child’s health and medical insurance, schooling and activities, religious observances, and all other important details in a child's upbringing. The court-approved plan provides guidance as to whether the child should be deemed a dependent on the client's tax returns.

An attorney can work with the client in drawing up a proposal for sharing of parental responsibility that accounts for the child's school and summer timetable. The attorney supports the client's case for approval of this time-sharing schedule, while keeping the child's best interests first and foremost.