A divorce proceeding is always difficult and emotions usually run high. Once a decision has been made to obtain a divorce, the parties are best served if they can resolve as many issues as possible, without the involvement of the Court. After all, who really wants their future decided by an impartial third party? Therefore, although difficult, compromise and civility are the keys to an expedited and less expensive divorce.
Florida is an Equitable Distribution state:
What does this mean? Basically, and with few exceptions, any Marital Assets and/or Liabilities are equally split by the parties. This can be more complicated than it sounds, especially in an age where so many couples have negative equity in their homes, carry a lot of credit card debt, or have school loans. The first step is determining whether or not there are any Non-Marital assets or debts which need to be excluded. Then we must consider whether or not there may be special circumstances allowing for an unequal distribution of any remaining assets or liabilities.
There have been recent changes in the law regarding alimony in the last few years, including attempts to limit the length of time that even “permanent” alimony must be paid. There are exceptions to every rule; however, generally to be considered eligible for “permanent” alimony the marriage has to have lasted at least 17 years. Of course, the first provision for ANY type of alimony award, whether it be: Bridge the Gap; Rehabilitative; Durational; Lump Sum; or Permanent is that the requesting party can establish that they have a legitimate need for alimony and that the paying party has the ability to pay alimony.
Custody, Parenting Plans and Child Support
When divorce is contemplated, the first consideration should be toward any children of the marriage. When discussing parenting and time sharing, it is important to note that so long as there is no detriment to the child, Florida law requires Shared Parental Responsibility. It has been found that this best serves most children.
Mediation is required in most all cases involving dissolution of marriage, alimony, child support, paternity, and related claims. Mediation is not only quicker it is far less expensive than litigation. Mediation may occur in one day, or if the issues are complex may take several days. Parties may choose to try Pre-Suit Mediation, where they agree on a mediator, agree who is paying the mediator or if they will share the costs, and attend mediation to resolve some or all of the issues. If a law suit has already been filed, mediation will be required before a hearing can be scheduled. Parties are often able to settle all of their issues at mediation; however, even if a partial mediation is reached, the issues are narrowed and the costs of litigation and trial are reduced. Mediation is a confidential process to encourage the parties to be open in trying to settle their differences. If the parties are not successful in resolving the issues, the discussions and settlement offers that occurred during mediation remain confidential and cannot be used in any later court proceedings.
A mediator is an impartial and neutral third party, who works with the parties, and if they are represented the parties’ attorneys, to resolve their issues so that the case does not have to go to trial. Generally, this expedites a resolution of the issues and allows the parties to exercise “self-determination” rather than having the Court decide their fate. Marcie L. Baker is a Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator who can assist parties prior to filing if the parties agree that they want to attempt to resolve some or all of the issues in their Family Law case. When retained as a mediator, Ms. Baker may not provide legal advice to either side and may not represent either party in their legal action.
ADDITIONAL LINKS TO ASSIST YOU
There are numerous other issues to be considered once the decision to obtain a divorce is made. The firm is prepared to answer your questions and give you guidance through this process. In the meantime, below are links to some helpful sites:
Pasco County: http://www.pascoclerk.com/public-courts-svcs-info.asp#family
Hernando County: http://hernandoclerk.com/courts/family-law/
Hillsborough County: http://www.fljud13.org/familylaw/UnifiedFamilyHome.aspx