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Broward County Divorce Law Blog

Who gets the house in a divorce?

Determining who gets the marital home is often one of the most contentious issues in a Florida divorce. If there are children involved, a court will normally allow the spouse who has physical custody of the children to keep the home. When a couple with no minor children divorces, a judge's decision about who gets the house might be more difficult.

In cases where one of the spouses paid for the house with their own separate funds, the house will legally belong to them. Money that is considered separate funds would have to have been acquired prior to the marriage or through an inheritance. If one spouse can prove that the house was paid for with separate funds, they can then order the other spouse to leave the premises.

Are there different types of alimony?

In general terms, alimony is a means for divorcing partners to maintain a quality of life similar to that which they experienced during the marriage. Also known as spousal support, alimony orders may come in different forms.

In many divorce cases, alimony is ordered by the court when there is a marked disparity between the incomes of the two spouses as well as their respective capacities to earn. Courts tend to order spouses who make considerably more in income than do their ex-spouse to pay spousal support. However, the type of alimony the court might order often depends upon a multitude of factors, including the duration of the marriage and the alimony recipient's proximity to financial independence. In Florida, courts may award alimony as a short-term tool or a long-term tool for achieving self-reliance.

Learning about spousal support

Florida law provides for the award of several different types of alimony as part of divorce proceedings. Some spouses may receive permanent alimony, while others may receive temporary alimony until the divorce is finalized.

One of the most common types of spousal support is rehabilitative alimony. This type helps the lower-earning spouse receive limited assistance while he or she goes through retraining or acquires additional education so that he or she can reenter the workforce. The goal is to provide help for a finite period of time so that the recipient can become self-supporting. The court may be more willing to grant this type of alimony when the party has potential or a background that demonstrates that he or she can establish or re-establish a viable career. For example, if the party had quit college to care for the couple's children, the court may award rehabilitative alimony for a reasonable period of time that would allow the recipient to complete his or her education.

What are the visitation rights of a grandparent in Florida?

Florida courts will grant a grandparent reasonable visitation with their grandchild if the court deems it to be in the best interests of the child. In order for a court to award visitation, one of the parents must have deserted the child, the child was born out of wedlock or the child's parents' marriage ended in dissolution.

In determining whether grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child, the court looks at a number of factors. The court considers whether the grandparent will encourage a close relationship between the child and his or her parents, the quality and length of the prior relationship between the grandparent and the child and what the child wishes if able to express his or her preference.

Shared parental responsibility in Florida custody cases

Parents undergoing a child custody dispute can expect that most family courts will assign parents shared responsibility for their children, even when one parent may have primary residential or physical custody. Custody decisions encompass more than just determining with which parent a child will primarily live. It also involves courts determining how major decisions that affect the children's lives will be made.

In most cases, courts will order the parents to share parental responsibility. This means that parents must confer with one another when making major decisions regarding the children. In other words, both parents will have a say in where the child will attend school, what doctor the child will see, whether the child will receive counseling and in what religion, if any, the child will be raised.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a blueprint for the resolution of challenges that parents and their children may face prior to, during and following a dissolution of a marriage. Florida law changed the way that parenting issues are governed in divorce proceedings in 2008, and the biggest change is the requirement that a parenting plan be developed for every child involved in an action for dissolution of a marriage.

In a parenting plan, the details for how parents intend to share the daily duties of raising their child are addressed. Time-sharing agendas and issues such as how each parent communicates with the child and which parent will hold responsibility for education-related matters are also planned. The more cooperative the parents are with each other in developing a parenting plan, the easier the divorce process becomes.

How is property distributed in a divorce in Florida?

In a Florida divorce, judges follow the principles of equitable distribution in dividing the marital assets and debts between the spouses. Each person keeps all non-marital assets, including property he or she owned prior to the marriage, any inheritance left to him or her, personal injury lawsuit proceeds, gifts made to one spouse by a third party and any property that has been deemed non-marital through a written or prenuptial agreement.

Equitable distribution is not the same as an equal division. Marital property and incurred debts are divided by the court in the fairest manner. When deciding how to divide the marital property, courts take into account what each party contributed to the marriage, including not only employment but also homemaking, whether a child should remain in the family home, the financial circumstances of each party, how long the marriage lasted and whether one party contributed to the other's education and career advancement.

Florida prenuptial agreements

In Florida, prenuptial agreements, called premarital agreements, are a type of contract people enter into prior to the marriage that become effective once the marriage occurs. Couples can sign agreements regarding such things as spousal support, property rights, division of assets, choice of law covering the agreement and how life insurance proceeds will be distributed in the event a death occurs. Premarital agreements cannot contain a clause adversely affecting the right of a child to future support, however.

In addition to defining what categories couples can choose to include in a premarital agreement, the law provides a mechanism by which either spouse can challenge pre-existing prenuptial agreements in the event of a divorce to prevent them from being enforced. Agreements will be held to be unenforceable if a spouse can prove one of several things occurred.

Protocol for alimony determination in Florida

Florida residents considering divorce may have questions about spousal support. There are guidelines established by the state that provide for a recipient's acclimation to being single once again. The court uses certain factors to decide how the amount of alimony is determined.

In Florida, spousal support may be considered rehabilitative, allowing either party to retrain such that their employability is enhanced or permanent. Such support is usually paid by the higher-earning party. Support may be paid in one payment, or it may be paid at predetermined intervals. In addition, the court might ask that the payer obtain life insurance that will cover alimony payments should he or she predecease the recipient.

The different types of alimony in Florida

Florida residents who are contemplating divorce may be interested in the way alimony is decided. The first determination the court considers is whether or not one spouse needs alimony and if the other spouse is financially able to pay it. In determining the amount of alimony, the court has many variable to consider. The length of the marriage and the contribution of each spouse is taken into consideration including child rearing, and the age and health of both spouses. Marriages of less than seven years are considered to be short-term marriages in Florida, while long-term ones exceed 17 years.

If one spouse enhanced the other's career by curtailing their own time in the workforce to take care of home-related duties, the court will use that information. Two types of alimony allow a spouse to readjust to life on their own. One bridges the gap between married and single status while the other, rehabilitative alimony, allows a spouse to retrain or seek education crucial to finding employment.