Divorce in Florida Family Law

By Heather Frances J.D.

Florida is a pure no-fault divorce state, which means the only reason for divorce in Florida is that a marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Neither spouse has to prove the other spouse caused the divorce, and there is no ground for divorce that assigns blame, such as adultery or cruelty. In Florida, divorce is called dissolution of marriage, and the courts issue divorce decrees addressing property division, custody, child support and alimony.

Property Division

Florida is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning Florida courts divide marital property between spouses in an equitable and fair manner, but not necessarily equally. To make a property distribution, courts consider factors including the length of the marriage, the economic circumstances of the spouses and the contributions of one spouse to the earning capacity of the other spouse. Most property acquired during a marriage is included in a couple’s marital property, but some assets, including those acquired by gift or inheritance, are considered nonmarital property. Nonmarital assets typically are not subject to division by the court.

Custody

Florida courts allow parents to develop their own parenting plan, but the court makes a custody determination based on the child’s best interests if the spouses cannot reach an agreement. Generally, Florida encourages frequent contact between a child and both parents, so Florida courts frequently award shared parenting rights and responsibilities to divorcing parents. However, a court can award sole parental responsibilities to just one spouse if a shared responsibility could harm the child.

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Child Support

Until a child turns 18 or is otherwise considered a legal adult, both parents are legally obligated to provide support for that child. Under Florida’s child support guidelines, both parents’ incomes are added together to determine what household income would have been used to support the child if the parents had not divorced. Florida law bases child support on the time the child spends with each parent and the combined income of the parents, but the court can vary this support amount if necessary to fit a family’s individual situation.

Alimony

Florida courts can award several types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational or permanent. Bridge-the-gap alimony helps a spouse make the transition to single life by providing funds for short-term needs. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help a spouse obtain skills or education to improve her earning capacity. Durational alimony provides a spouse with payments for a set duration, and permanent alimony is awarded to provide for a spouse until she remarries or dies. Any of these types of alimony can be paid in a lump sum or in periodic payments or both. The court bases awards on factors such as the length of the marriage, time necessary to obtain sufficient education or training to find appropriate employment and contributions each spouse made to the marriage, including homemaking.

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References

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