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Q: What are the main issues that have to be determined in a divorce?

A: We like to use the acronym “PEACE” to help clients remember the main issues involved in most divorces:

Parenting issues including parenting plans and timesharing

Equitable Distribution of assets and liabilities

Alimony

Child Support

Everything else!

Q: How is a divorce initiated?

A: A divorce in Florida is initiated by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the clerk of the court usually in the county where the parties last resided as husband and wife. However, in some instances where parties genuinely want to cooperate and have an amicable split a settlement can be reached even before the Petition for Dissolution is filed.

This can be achieved through negotiations, mediation and/or the collaborative law process. In those instances, the filing of the Petition is basically a formality, and the case can be concluded in a very short period of time.

Q: How long does a divorce take?

A: That depends on a number of factors. Many factors, including whether businesses and assets require valuation, the backlogs of the courts and the overall complexity of the case influence the duration of the divorce proceedings.

Still, the greatest single factor influencing the length of time between filing a petition for dissolution of marriage and the court granting a final judgment of divorce is the cooperation between the parties and the cooperation between counsels. This last factor, by the way, also greatly influences the overall cost of the divorce.

Q: What determines alimony?

A: Alimony is based, first, on the need of one party to receive alimony, and second, on the ability of the other party to pay alimony. If the first two factors are met, there are at least six (6) different types of alimony that a court may award depending on the circumstances.

One of the main factors influencing the type of alimony, and, to a great degree the length of time the alimony is to be paid, is the length of the marriage. Unlike child support, Florida has no laws prescribing the amount of alimony that a court should or must award. That is why it is important to have experienced divorce attorneys and counselors at law represent you.

Q: So how is child support calculated?

A: Although child support is based on guidelines found in Florida Statute 61.30, deriving the “net incomes” of both parties, calculating that net income is not always as simple as it seems. Untaxed employment benefits, bonuses, self employment income and hidden perks all come into play when computing net income.

Further, child support also includes contributions toward children’s child care and health insurance. Moreover, even once these numbers are established for both parties, the amount of overnights each parent spends with the children influences the ultimate child support number.

Q: Can I get a divorce, file for modification or paternity and child support without retaining an attorney?

A: Yes. There is no legal requirement for a party to have an attorney to participate in a family law case. However, you can also remove your own moles, cast your broken arm and pull your own teeth, but I don’t recommend that.

Remember, in most instances, once you sign a settlement agreement or go to court without an attorney, you may be stuck with any decisions made or judgments entered forever.

Q: Can alimony and child support be modified?

As to alimony, it depends on the type originally awarded. Some alimony is never modifiable. Others, such as permanent periodic alimony can be modified if either party has a substantial change in circumstances.

This can be anything from the alimony recipient earning far more that the income used to initially establish alimony, to the paying party becoming disabled or reaching retirement age where one’s income substantially decreases.

Child support is always subject to modification. Again, this is subject to a substantial change in circumstances, which may include not only a change in either party’s income, but a change in the time sharing arrangement.

Q: How do I pick a family law or divorce attorney?

A: Selecting the right family law attorney is a very personal matter. A good starting place is speaking with family, friends and colleagues for a recommendation. Of course, since you’re probably reading this on the internet, that resource is also a good reference.

However, call the attorney’s office and see if you can speak directly with the attorney before booking an appointment. Once you speak with the attorney you will likely get an idea of whether this attorney may be right for you. If the attorney will not speak with you in advance of an appointment, then you should contemplate how easy or difficult it may be to have this attorney return calls if you hire that attorney for your case.

At Cindy S. Vova, P.A. we will always speak with you briefly on the phone to put you at ease before your first appointment.