Grounds for Divorce
Florida is among many states that have abolished fault as a ground for divorce. Who did what to whom is now immaterial. To legally end the marriage, the spouses need only show it is irretrievably broken. The parties must prove that a legal marriage exists and that one of the spouses has been a Florida resident for six months immediately before the petition is filed.
Regular or Simplified Divorce
Florida has two processes for obtaining a divorce. A regular divorce involves a traditional trial, subject to the rules of evidence, discovery and court procedures. A simplified divorce requires the parties to complete a fill-in-the-blank state form on which both spouses agree to the simplified divorce process and meet residency requirements. To use the simplified process, there can be no dependent children and the wife cannot be pregnant. The parties must agree on property division, debt payment and forgo alimony. Finally, both must acknowledge the marriage is irretrievably broken. If these requirements aren’t met, it is necessary to use the regular divorce process.
Dividing Marital Property
While Florida is a no-fault state, the court may take fault into account when considering alimony, child custody and property division. Florida divides marital assets equitably, unlike a community property state which divides them equally. This means the court can consider conduct, length of marriage, finances and other factors necessary to achieve fairness when dividing assets. Real estate can’t be divided, so it must be sold and the proceeds split, or one spouse must buy out the other.
Determining Child Custody
Florida law dictates the best interest of the child standard to determine custody. Establishing a child’s best interests requires the court to evaluate all factors affecting the welfare of the minor, including the moral, mental and physical fitness of each parent; their geographic locations; the ability of each parent to put the child’s needs first; how well each parent knows the child’s friends, teachers, doctors, school and social activities; whether domestic violence, child abuse or abandonment is an issue; and any other factors that are relevant to determining custody.
Florida law requires two things before alimony, or spousal support, can be awarded: one party must need it and the other must have the means to pay. The court weighs a number of factors to determine the amount of alimony. These include age, standard of living, duration of the marriage, financial resources, future earning capacity and contributions to the marriage. The catch-all requirement that a judge must consider any factor necessary to ensure justice and equity gives the court great latitude in deciding alimony issues.