NUPTIAL AGREEMENT: Couples sometimes choose to enter into an agreement/contract that sets forth their rights in the event of a dissolution of marriage. These agreements can be drafted prior to or after marriage. Prenuptial agreements are prepared while the parties contemplate marriage while postnuptial agreements are entered into after the parties have married. These types of agreement can be beneficial in preventing a lengthy and costly legal battle.

DIVORCE: Divorces are difficult and often time traumatic on all those involved including minor children. As a result, I often find that my clients want the process of finalizing their divorce to be as quick and painless as possible. However, it is so important that you know your rights and obligations as the final judgment will determine your rights and responsibilities moving forward. Specifically, some of the most common issues addressed throughout a divorce, including equitable distribution, alimony, parenting plans, and child support, are discussed below in more detail.

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION (PROPERTY DIVISION): Equitable distribution is governed by Florida Statutes, Section 61.075. Florida law states that the court must distribute the marital assets and liabilities. The first determination that must be made by the court is what will be considered a "marital" asset and "marital" liability. This is normally anything acquired during the span of the marriage regardless of whether title is owned jointly. Once the court makes this assessment, it then determines how the distribution will be made. The court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be "equal". However, the court will consider the statutory factors listed in Florida Statutes, Section 61.075(1) in order to achieve a just and equitable distribution.

ALIMONY (SPOUSAL SUPPORT/MAINTENANCE): The court will consider a request for alimony only after equitable distribution has been made. Florida Statutes, Section 61.08(1) authorizes the court to award an ex-spouse any combination of permanent periodic, durational, rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, and lump sum alimony. The court must first determine if there is an actual need for alimony by one spouse and if the other has the ability to give the financial support. The next step is to determine the proper type and amount of alimony. To accomplish this, the court will consider the statutory factors listed in Florida Statutes, Section 61.08(2).

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PARENTING PLAN: A Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving minor children. Florida law states that it must, at a minimum "describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child; the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent; a designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration, and other activities; and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child." Florida Statutes, Section 61.13(2)(b). If the parents cannot agree to a Parenting Plan then it will be established by the court. At times, the court requires the help of an expert in order create a Parenting Plan that is in the best interest of the child. A parenting plan has two separate components, (1) decision-making and (2) time-sharing.

  1. DECISION-MAKING: This component of the parenting plan pertains to parental responsibilities and privileges to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of the child(ren). Decision making can either be shared between the parents, or the court may order sole parental responsibility to one parent if shared parental responsibility will be detrimental to the child(ren). An alternative to sole parental responsibility is ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s welfare or division of responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child(ren).
  2. TIME-SHARING: This component of the parenting plan pertains to where the child lives at any given time and the contact with the other parent. A time-sharing schedule which specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that the child will spend with each parent must be included in the parenting plan. Time-sharing arrangements vary depending on each individual family’s situation.

*The best interests of the child(ren) will always be the primary consideration for purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule.

CHILD-SUPPORT: Child support is governed by Florida Statutes, Section 61.30, which provides the statutory guidelines that are applied by the courts in establishing the amount of child support to be paid by each parent. In order to properly calculate child support it is important to know each parent's income, child care costs, non-covered medical and dental expenses, health insurance expenses, and the amount of overnights the child(ren) will spend with each parent. The method for calculating child support is outlined in the child support guidelines worksheet, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(e).

MEDIATION: Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties attempt to resolve their case before it proceeds to trial. Mediation may provide a cost-effective resolution to your case that allows you control over the final agreement. It is important to have an attorney present during mediation as most, if not all, of the issues of the case may be resolved with appropriate legal guidance.

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