Even though couples get married or are in a relationship with the belief that their marriage or relationship will last forever, circumstances may arise later on that requires either a divorce or a paternity action (actions between nonmarried couples that have children together). While there are many reasons for filing a Family Law action, Florida is a No Fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that divorces granted because there are irreconcilable differences. This term also has implications on how assets and liabilities are distributed but we will talk about that in a minute. As far as paternity actions, as you will read further in this website, there are no issues of asset or liability distribution just issues involving setting up a Parenting Plan. At the Law Office of William S. Orth I can help you with these matters.
Florida Statute 61.13 contains factors the court will look at when determining what the time sharing (contact or visitation) schedule will be or modifying the time sharing schedule. These factors are:
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
Divorces (and Paternity actions for that matter) can either be uncontested or contested. What category your situation fits has more to do with agreement than anything else. For couples who are in complete agreement on how assets and liabilities are to be distributed as well as issues regarding minor children (if applicable) they can pursue an uncontested divorce and it may be finalized within 30-60 days. Others fall into the contested category meaning there is disagreement on asset and liability distribution or issues with minor children. Those cases may come to an agreement later on but not after I aggressively advocate on your behalf through court pleadings and possible hearings. Contact me at the Law Office of William S. Orth.
Regardless of whether this is a divorce action or paternity action the process is very similar (although assets and liabilities have different relevance in paternity actions) although I will refer to divorce actions in the general process. Once the initial Petition is filed, there are certain statutory prescribed timeframes for Answers and Counter-Petitions. Cases then enter the discovery phase that encompasses Mandatory Disclosure. This is the document gathering stage where you need to collect documents you have in your possession or readily accessible to you. Examples include old tax returns, pay stubs and bank statements. Once this is complete, mediation is set up. If your case is uncontested, you may waive this document gathering stage. All the law requires is that you file and exchange financial affidavits and each party complete a Parenting Class if minor children are involved.
As I stated earlier, No Fault also deals with how assets and liabilities are distributed. In the State of Florida, all assets and liabilities are split evenly, or 50-50, unless a Judge finds reason for an inequitable distribution. Prior to the law change in October of 2008, Special Equity existed to allow a person to claim more than 50% of an asset or to claim less than 50% responsibility for a liability. The concept is the same except we may ask for an inequitable distribution rather than pleading Special Equity. You can ask for an inequitable distribution for many reasons, some of which may be tied to why the marriage is ending in the first place. Maybe your spouse had an
affair and spent marital money on this affair. That may be reason enough for you to ask for an inequitable distribution.
Contact me at the Law Office of William S. Orth for more information.