Divorce

Divorce

Divorce in Florida is referred to as dissolution of marriage. Florida is a no-fault dissolution of marriage state. You are not required to show, and prove, a reason for the divorce. You can simply request a divorce from the court by stating that either the marriage is irretrievably broken or your spouse has a mental incapacity. It prevents abusive relationships from continuing and provides expedient closure in the Florida divorce process.

Why hire an attorney?

Though you no longer have to show fault in Florida, there are additional requirements to have your marriage dissolved. For example, every state has a residency requirement when filing for divorce. The individual filing the divorce petition must have resided in Florida for at least 6 months prior to the filing date. If you have not lived in Florida for 6 months, you will have to delay your filing if you want to use the Florida courts. The are additional requirements when one or both spouses are in the military.

Florida also requires a 20-day waiting period before the divorce is granted, however, few are finalized that quickly. In most cases, there are settlement issues that take longer than the waiting period.

Contact William J. McClellan

Choosing the right divorce lawyer is the first step in protecting your rights in family court. Divorces can become complex very quickly, so hiring an experienced, aggressive family law attorney who can handle every aspect of your divorce action is essential. We fight aggressively to win favorable terms and settlements for every client. We uncover any hidden assets and make certain that property is fairly divided. We advocate for your children’s best interests regarding custody, visitation, and support. We also represent clients when custody, time-sharing, and support orders need modification. A divorce may be your first exposure to the Florida legal system, and the process can be overwhelming without the right attorney.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is also known as a simplified divorce or a simple dissolution of marriage in Florida. To qualify for a simple dissolution of marriage, you and your spouse must:

  • Have resided in Florida for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Have no dependent children or current pregnancy.
  • Have mutual consent to the agreement.
  • Not seek spousal support (alimony).
  • Not seek trial or appeal.

Both parties must agree on the particulars of the divorce, and the lawyers then draft a marital settlement agreement (MSA). While MSAs are typically accepted, the court is not required to accept an MSA if it feels it is unfair to one party.

Even if you do not agree on every issue, you and your spouse can work together to avoid adversarial litigation. Divorce mediation can be very effective in facilitating couples to reach an agreement. Coming to a mediation agreement regarding divorce matters can avoid the time, stress, and expense of court hearings or trials and you have greater control over the results. It is important to have an experienced attorney represent you during mediation proceedings.

Contact William J. McClellan

If you and your spouse have come to terms with how you wish you for your divorce to be handled, and have come to an agreement on all relevant matters, such as the distribution of assets and debts, how to deal with the marital home, time-sharing (custody), etc., then an uncontested divorce may be your best option. If you would like to learn more about whether or not an uncontested divorce is right for you, call us today for a free initial consultation.

Contested Divorce

Unlike a simple dissolution of marriage, a contested divorce can take a significant amount of time and money.

A contested divorce proceeding often begins when a spouse replies to a divorce petition by stating the marriage is not irretrievably broken. Except in cases of domestic violence or abuse, the court requires a 3-month period for the parties to attend counseling and try to repair the marriage. If, after 3 months, one spouse still states that the marriage is irretrievably broken, then a divorce is typically permitted to proceed.

Depending on the relationship, your spouse can challenge nearly all aspects of the divorce, including child support, child custody, division of marital assets, potential relocation expenses, paternity, allegations of domestic violence and spousal support (alimony).

The court must make decisions during a contested divorce. It will hear arguments and review evidence from both sides. This can result in personal information, indiscretions, criticisms, and sensitive financial information presented in open court. As an experienced divorce litigator, we keep negotiating with your spouse and their attorney to avoid as much emotional distress as possible. We can also work to challenge the arguments of your spouse in court and provide support for your assertions regarding property division, spousal support, child custody, among many other issues. We approach contested divorces with your well-being in mind and seek to achieve the best results for you in the most cost-effective way possible. Whether you are facing an uncontested or contested divorce, our office can help you.

Contact William J. McClellan

If an uncontested divorce is not possible, it is essential to retain an attorney you are comfortable with and who puts your interests first. Call us today for a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

High Asset Divorce

In high-asset divorce cases it is critical to retain the most experienced divorce attorney you can. Complex assets such as businesses must be valuated properly, hidden assets require forensic accounting, and even vocational experts are needed to resolve how much support a traditional stay-at-home spouse may need.

In complex, high-asset divorce cases, detailed discovery and preparation are key. This may include forensic accounting to detect hidden assets or properly valuing all types of assets that are subject to distribution. Such assets may include:

  • Businesses
  • Inheritance
  • Have mutual consent to the agreement
  • Retirement accounts
  • Pensions
  • Investments
  • Offshore accounts
  • Multiple real estate properties
  • Automobiles
  • Fine jewelry
  • Artwork

Many high asset divorce cases involve traditional marriages in which one spouse played a stay-at-home role that minimized workplace participation. In such cases, it is important to enlist a vocational expert to develop an estimate of what is necessary in order to resolve how much support the person may need.

Alimony

Alimony, or spousal support, is a financial relief that may be sought during a dissolution of marriage (divorce). There are 4 forms of spousal support: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent alimony.

For the court to determine a party needs of spousal support, the judge must first find a party needs support and the alternate party has the ability to pay support. Once this test has been met, the court must decide which form of alimony is proper.

Alimony is not automatically awarded when spouses divorce in Florida. The court considers a number of factors to determine whether spousal support should be awarded, and if so, how much.

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The standard of living during the marriage.
  • The financial circumstances of each spouse.
  • The earning capacity of each spouse.
  • Age and health of each spouse.
  • Other factors.

Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution, also known as assets and debts, must be dealt with in divorce proceedings. The court begins with a presumption that the distribution must be equal unless there are factors which would justify an unequal distribution of assets and debts.

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means each spouse receives a fair portion of marital property based on its total value. It is important to learn what is considered marital property, how to figure out the equity of the property, and be aware of dissipation issues.

Marital Property

According to Florida law, marital property (or assets) is items acquired during the marriage. Items considered marital property can include the following.

  • Increased value of assets.
  • Gifts from one spouse to the other.
  • Real property.
  • Personal property titled under both spouses’ names.
  • Retirement accounts, pensions, and similar assets.
  • Financial liabilities.

The law also takes into account the value of a spouse’s contribution towards the other spouse’s success. For example, if a spouse supported the other spouse’s business through hosting business parties or taking care of the household to enable the spouse to focus on their business, then the growth of the business and subsequent increased value may be counted as marital property.

Property that would fit under the state’s definition of non-marital property would be non-spousal gifts, inheritances, income from non-marital assets and property both parties agree to exclude.

Calculating Equity of Marital Property

Once the character of the asset, or the classification of marital property, is determined, it must be valued. To ensure one spouse does not have an advantage over the other, you should enlist the help of a family law attorney with experience in valuing marital property. If the spouses cannot agree on the proper value of marital property, then it will likely fall to a judge to make that decision.

Preventing Dissipation of Marital Property

In some cases, a spouse may attempt to hide property or assets or attempt to sell property to exclude it from the property division process. If a spouse suspects that the other spouse is trying to dissipate property, they can petition the court to issue what is referred to as an injunction.

An injunction essentially freezes the property and assets, preventing the spouse from being able to sell it or transfer it during the divorce process. The spouse must then show the court that there is just reason for issuing an injunction order, and an experienced attorney will help.

Divorce Modification

Both parties must abide by the terms of the agreement or final judgment. However, circumstances may cause an individual to request changes to a child support order, a parenting plan, or a modification of alimony.

If this is applicable in your case, contact us as soon as possible. The procedure you must follow depends on the type of change you need.

Modifying a Previous Court Order

In order to modify a parenting plan (which includes parental responsibility and the time-sharing schedule), a party must file a petition. For a Judge to modify a parenting plan, there must be evidence of a substantial, material, and unanticipated changes in circumstances from the time the prior judgment was entered which created the parenting plan. In addition, the judge must make a determination that the requested modification is in the best interests of the children. To learn more about the myriad factors considered and how to request a modification, call us today for an initial free consultation.

Contact William J. McClellan

Changes happen. Alimony, child support, and parenting plans sometimes become obsolete. A competent, experienced support modification attorney can help you modify and update family court orders to reflect your current circumstances. Whether you need to modify an alimony order because your ex-spouse is cohabitating or remarrying or because your child is now a teenager, we help clients resolve these issues through a mutual agreement or with the court’s help.

We are here to solve your legal problem, just contact us.

The Office of William J. McClellan will stand by your side through any family need. Call now to get started on your case.

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