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Negotiating the Divorce Agreement: The Fifth Step in the Florida Divorce Process

Filing for divorce in the state of Florida is a step-by-step process, beginning with the filing of the petition for the dissolution of marriage, service of the petition to the spouse, and followed by the negotiation of the terms of the divorce, including the division of property, agreements regarding child custody, and the awarding of child support and alimony. Those agreements are made according to specific standards. What are they and what do they mean? See below for information regarding how these types of decisions are made.

Decisions about Property

Different states have different rules regarding how property is divided during a divorce process. In the state of Florida, the law requires that the division of property be “equitable”, and fair and. However, that does not always mean that a judge will or should divide the value of all assets precisely equally. Property may be divided in a different proportion, reflecting in an equitable or fair manner. While by default property is generally divided between the parties equally, there are certain circumstances where the judge will unequally divide the marital property. Those extenuating circumstances are generally reserved for extreme cases usually related to one of the parties dissipation of marital assets for non marital purposes. For instance, one party may have a substance abuse problem who used martial assets in furtherance of that problem. It would therefore be inequitable to divide the remaining property 50/50 when one of the parties dissipated funds for their own non-marital use.

Decisions about Custody and Child Decision Making

Like in making decisions regarding property division, different states utilize different standards for making decisions regarding custody of shared children. In the state of Florida, judges are required to make custody determinations based on the “best interests of the child” and must begin with the assumption that children generally benefit from being in contact with both parents and having both parents involved in making decisions for their wellbeing. This standard is called “Shared Parental Responsibility” and is the default in Florida.The exception to these standards for custody determinations is when there is a health and safety risk associated with one parent over the other.

Decisions about Child Support

As to decisions regarding child support, Florida law provides clear guidelines for calculations, using factors like the gross income of each parent, state or federal benefits, and employment. The calculus for determining child support payments is available online. Judges simply follow the steps required by law to calculate percentage of income and thereby child support.

Decisions about Alimony

In Florida, decisions about alimony are driven by the notion that the higher-earning partner should assist the lower-earning partner in maintaining the same lifestyle the lower earner experienced in the marriage after the divorce. Alimony also must fall into one of five categories in Florida: temporary alimony, alimony intended to briefly “bridge a gap” in income, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and (a category slowly disappearing in Florida) permanent alimony. Beyond strictly financial factors like income and employment, judges may take into account other considerations like future earning capacity, spouses’ ages and emotional or physical conditions, tax consequences, and how alimony will affect the distribution of child support.

If you are attempting to navigate the divorce process in Florida, you should know that you do not need to do it alone. At Schwartz | White, experienced Boca Raton family law attorneys are standing by and ready to answer your questions. Call 561-391-9943 today.

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