Its Valentine’s Day once more and while those in successful – or new – relationships will celebrate, people in unhappy marriages – or recently divorced – may wonder what went wrong. Sometimes it is obvious. The couple could not survive infidelity, domestic abuse or the stress of bankruptcy or of serious illness or disability.
Marriages often end for benign reasons
But sometimes, people just fall out of love or drift apart without any dramatic trigger causing the end of the relationship. They might begin to feel more like friends than spouses or discover they just are not compatible. Neither partner is really responsible for what happened, and parting ways is clearly the right decision.
What is no-fault divorce?
In this situation, a couple wanting to divorce in Florida before a 1971 change in the law would have had a challenge because the law required that at least one legal ground for divorce exist such as adultery, cruelty, abandonment and similarly serious marital behavior.
In 1971, Florida jumped on the bandwagon with other states and adopted no-fault divorce, meaning that a petitioner for divorce must not give a reason for the marital dissolution. Since then, divorce has been available in Florida if the marriage has become “irretrievably broken” or if one spouse is mentally incapacitated.
If there is at least one minor child or if the spouse who did not file the petition for divorce disagrees that there has been an irretrievable breakdown, the divorce statute does allow the judge to order one or both parties to marriage counseling by a mental health professional, clergy or other qualified person; to put the divorce proceedings on hold for up to three months to give time for possible reconciliation; or to “[t]ake such other action” in the parties’ and their children’s best interest.
Marital misconduct still relevant to some issues
Even though spousal misconduct is no longer a requirement for divorce in Florida, it may be important in the divorce proceedings in other ways. For example, the judge may consider whether either spouse was unfaithful, along with the surrounding circumstances, when it sets the amount of an alimony award. Or, negative behavior of a spouse during marriage might also suggest something about their character that could be detrimental to a child, potentially impacting custody and visitation decisions.
An attorney can answer questions about divorce broadly and about the potential impact of marital misconduct on issues in the court proceedings.