When facing a dissolving marriage, emotions can run high. Heartbreak, fear, anger and stress can come to define this challenging time. Trying to navigate the complexities of divorce on your own – or with the help of an inexperienced lawyer – will most likely add confusion, frustration and uncertainty to your list of troubling emotions.
You don’t have to endure the difficulties of divorce alone. No matter how complicated the legal aspects of your situation, the experienced family law attorneys at Syprett Meshad have the skill, knowledge and compassion you need to face your divorce with confidence and integrity.
The best way to learn about your legal rights and options is to speak with our divorce lawyers in person. Please call 941-365-7171 today to schedule a consultation. We proudly serve clients from Sarasota, Bradenton and throughout Florida.
- Divorce in Florida
- Alimony (Spousal Support)
- Child Support
- Child Support Enforcement and Modification
- Parenting Plans and Timesharing
- Parental Responsibility
- Equitable Distribution of Property
- Collaborative Divorce
- Attorney Fees
- A Divorce Lawyer with Experience and Compassion on Your Side
- Contact our Sarasota Divorce Lawyers
Divorce in Florida
As a no-fault divorce state, Florida allows dissolution of marriage to proceed without blaming either partner for a marriage’s demise. Any spouse can file for divorce if he or she can show:
- A legal marriage existed
- At least one of the spouses was a legal Florida resident for at least six months immediately preceding the divorce
- The marital union was irretrievably broken or one of the partners was mentally incapacitated
While filing for a dissolution of marriage can be a relatively straight-forward process, the reality of a divorce is usually much more involved. Hurt feelings aren’t the only considerations that hang in the balance. When joined in a marriage, a couple’s finances, families and assets are intrinsically entwined. Deciding how accounts, debts and properties and other assets will be divided aren’t just critical financial questions; they are legal issues. When children are involved in a divorce, far more challenging personal questions must be answered.
Divorce cases involving same-sex couples present unique challenges of their own. Same-sex marriages have only been legal in Florida since 2015, so there is still relatively little case law precedent to govern these cases. As a result, it is crucial that you work with an experienced family law attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of these cases.
Alimony (Spousal Support)
Also referred to as spousal support, alimony is monetary support one spouse pays the other. The purpose of alimony is to ensure that neither party goes from meeting their needs during their marriage to being unable to meet their needs after a divorce.
Spousal support is not an element of every divorce. It is only included if one spouse successfully demonstrates a need for this support as well as the other spouse’s ability to pay it. Proving this to a judge requires the review of several financial considerations, including:
- The standard of living prior to divorce
- Tax consequences
- The duration of the marriage:
- Short-term (0-7 years)
- Moderate (7-17 years)
- Long-term (more than 17 years)
- The age and health of each spouse
- The financial standings of each spouse
- The current and future earning potential of each spouse
- The education level and employability of each spouse
- Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage
- Each spouse’s responsibilities regarding any children
- All sources of income available
Under Florida law, there are several different types of spousal support that may be awarded:
- Temporary - Alimony provided temporarily during the divorce process. Once the divorce is final, a new type of spousal support will replace the temporary arrangement.
- Permanent periodic - Typically reserved for long-term marriages, this form of alimony requires monthly payments until the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse.
- Lump sum - True to its name, lump sum alimony typically involves a single monetary payment or transfer in property.
- Durational - This form of spousal support is commonly awarded in short- to moderate-term marriages to provide the recipient with financial support throughout a predefined time period, not to exceed the duration of the marriage.
- Rehabilitative - Alimony provided to help the recipient eventually become self-sufficient, through education, training or experience. A specific rehabilitation plan which details the logistics and projected timeline of the process is required.
- Bridge the gap - Generally awarded in short-term marriages, this type of spousal support is intended to help one spouse transition to single life. This form of alimony is only awarded for a maximum of two years.
Determining whether a spouse should get alimony – and if so, how much – is a complex process. It may require extensive research and a thorough examination of your finances, prospects and history. The divorce attorneys at Syprett Meshad know how Florida law impacts the way the courts will rule on alimony disputes, and we can help ensure your rights are protected during these complicated negotiations.
In Florida, each parent is responsible for supporting their children whether the child lives with them or not. Florida law requires parents to support their minor children until they reach the age of 18, graduate from high school if they will graduate prior to reaching 19, or the child emancipates in some other manner.
Florida law calculates child support using specific criteria to determine which parent will receive the support, which parent will pay the support, and how much support must be paid.
The factors impacting child support include:
- Income levels of each parent
- The amount of parenting time for each parent
- Special educational or medical needs of the child
- The cost of insurance and who pays for it
- The cost of day care and who pays for it
- Whether either parent pays or receives spousal support
- Child support payments to other children
- Which parent may claim the minor child for tax purposes
Unless the parties agree otherwise, Florida law requires child support to be paid through an Income Withholding Order (IWO). An IWO will take the child support payment directly from the salary of the paying parent. That payment is then sent to the Florida State Disbursement Unit and then to the Clerk of Court. This establishes an accounting of payments made so there is no future dispute as to whether a child support payment was made. The Clerk of Court then sends the payment to the parent receiving the child support.
Parents can agree to initially allow for direct payments between them and in the event payments become late, they can file the necessary documents to put an IWO in place at that time.
Child Support Enforcement and Modification
When a parent delays or refuses to make their child support payments, contempt or enforcement motions may need to be filed with the court. If the paying parent does not have a valid reason why the child support payment was not made, the court may order the delinquent parent to immediately catch up in their child support payments.
Child support can be modified if either parent can show that there has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of one or both of the parents. Under Florida law, to justify a modification of child support, a change must to be shown to be “substantial, material, involuntary and permanent” in nature. Circumstances which can justify a modification include:
- Change of income due to job loss, a new job or a promotion
- Changes in the cost of health insurance
- Changes in the cost of child care
- Changes in the timesharing schedule
To justify a modification, the change in child support must be at least $50.00 or 15% of the total monthly obligation. There are no limits on the number of times child support can be modified, but there are legal standards which will dictate whether a modification is available to a parent.
Parenting Plans and Timesharing
The concept of a parenting plan has replaced prior notions of "child custody," "visitation," and "primary parent." In developing the parenting plan, the parties should be guided by what is in the best interests of the child.
Under Florida Law, there is no preference given to a mother or father when creating the parenting plan, regardless of the age of the children. Generally, Florida law requires that parents establish a parenting plan which governs how decisions will be made regarding the health and well-being of minor children. This plan must contain a timesharing schedule that clearly details when each parent will have the children under their care and supervision.
The rights and responsibilities associated with raising children will be shared by both parents unless the court finds that sharing this responsibility would be detrimental to the children.
Generally, parental responsibility refers to the day-to-day decision making of a parent concerning the welfare of their children. This may include decisions related to:
- Any other responsibilities the court finds unique to a particular family
In instances where the court deems shared parental responsibility isn't in the best interest of the child, sole parental responsibility may be awarded, allowing one parent to make decisions affecting a child without consulting with or requiring the consent of the other parent.
In some instances of shared parental responsibility, the court may grant the ultimate responsibility and final decision-making authority over specific aspects of the child’s welfare to one parent. These decisions to divide specific aspects of parental responsibility between each parent will be based on the best interests of the child.
Equitable Distribution of Property
Under Florida law, property and assets are divided between each spouse according to the doctrine of equitable distribution, which states that assets will be split in an equitable, but not necessarily equal manner. The property to be divided during a divorce can take many forms, including:
- A home
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Any other asset shared by the couple
Generally, any assets acquired or debts incurred by either spouse prior to the marriage will be considered separate property. This separate property is not included in the equitable distribution of assets. Only marital property, which consists of assets acquired or debts incurred during the marriage, will be considered by the court for equitable distribution.
There are a number of factors the court ordinarily considers when determining an equitable distribution of the marital assets and liabilities between the parties. The family law attorneys at Syprett Meshad can help you navigate these complex laws to ensure your rights and interests are protected during property division negotiations.
Divorce is painful, but it doesn't have to be destructive. Collaborative divorce is a method of settling divorce agreements respectfully, without court intervention. It combines the benefits of each partner being represented by an attorney with the cooperative nature of face-to-face mediation.
Collaborative divorce is based on three key principles:
- A pledge to resolve issues out of court - An essential difference between a conventional divorce and a collaborative approach is the pledge to reach an agreement outside of a courtroom. This empowers the individuals involved to play an active role in the process, rather than relinquishing power to a judge.
- A commitment to open and transparent communication - Collaborative divorce sessions are designed to encourage honest conversations between you and your spouse. By conducting straight-forward and respectful discussions, expectations and needs can be more easily presented and addressed.
- A customized solution that addresses the highest priorities of both spouses and their children - The primary intent of the collaborative divorce process is to take control of your situation and tailor a resolution to meet the unique needs of your family.
The collaborative approach involves a small team of uniquely-skilled professionals. This group will help guide you through the legal, financial and emotional aspects of your divorce in order to avoid battling over the issues in court.
Collaborative divorce consists of a series of face-to-face meetings which are intended to be non-confrontational. The primary goal of these meetings is finding an amicable, mutually acceptable resolution between the spouses. A typical session includes six people:
- The divorcing couple
- Their respective attorneys
- A financial professional
- A family mental health professional
A collaborative approach to divorce offers several benefits, including:
- Avoids courtroom battles
- Saves money by eliminating court appearances and all associated fees
- Keeps control of the process in the hands of the divorcing couple instead of in the hands of a judge
- Establishes a forum for open communication
- Emphasizes mutual respect
- Focuses on the interests and concerns of all
- Provides for the needs of children and typically ensures a smoother transition to post-divorce life
- Keeps personal information out of public record
While many parting couples can benefit from the collaborative approach, it is not always right for everyone. The process will not work in situations where:
- Domestic violence is occurring
- One or both parties have alcohol or drug problems
- One or both parties has a mental illness
- One or both parties cannot commit to the collaborative process
- One or both parties is unwilling to disclose financial or other information
In addition to paying your own attorney's fees and litigation expenses, there may be circumstances in which you may also be required to pay these fees for your spouse. Often, attorney's fees are awarded when there is a significant disparity in the income of each spouse. The court may award these fees even though the needy spouse may have assets at his or her disposal that could be sold in order to pay these fees.
Circumstances may also exist where one spouse acts improperly during the course of litigation, and this conduct may be taken into consideration by the court when determining whether an award of attorney's fees is appropriate.
The key to navigating your entitlement to an award of attorney’s fees is having a competent, capable divorce lawyer representing your interests. Our family law attorneys are fully prepared to protect your rights regarding the costs and expenses of your divorce case, including the pursuit of or defense against an award of attorney’s fees and costs.
A Divorce Lawyer with Experience and Compassion on Your Side
There are several types of divorces and alternative options to dissolve a marriage in the state of Florida, such as contested divorce, uncontested divorce and collaborative divorce. It is important for both spouses to strongly consider their relationship between each other, the needs of any children involved and their own unique needs and goals when deciding a path for their future. The divorce attorneys at Syprett Meshad are intimate with all aspects of family law and can recommend a course of action that meets the needs of you and your family.
Contact our Sarasota Divorce Lawyers
Please contact Syprett Meshad using the form on this page or call 941-365-7171 today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Sarasota, Bradenton and the surrounding areas of Florida.