If you’ve never been through the family law process before, it can be extremely scary, especially when armed only with limited knowledge from stories told by friends and from the culture. Every state has a different set of laws, and every judge has a different concept on how best to address separating family units. Here are a few bits of information about family law in Florida that may surprise you and bring you some relief.
ADULTERY ONLY MATTERS WHEN MARITAL ASSETS ARE SPENT ON THE RELATIONSHIP
In Florida, evidence and testimony towards the extra-marital relationships of a spouse are only relevant when that spouse spends significant money on that relationship. In that event, the court may consider those assets to be part of the equitable distribution of the property that has already been claimed, and will award the other spouse additional funds or assets to compensate. But the bare fact of cheating on a spouse is irrelevant. It doesn’t even factor into the grounds for a divorce.
FLORIDA REQUIRES MINIMAL EVIDENCE OF GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
Almost every divorce has the same small bit of critical evidence: one party testifies that “the marriage is irretrievably broken”. That’s all it takes to get a divorce in Florida. Adultery, abuse – none of that is necessary to end a marriage. Just that one bare statement, under oath, from one spouse. However, the court has the power to order the parties to counseling, and the State requires a 4 hour class for any parents involved in a divorce action.
THE MOTHER OF THE CHILDREN DOES NOT ALWAYS GET ALL THE TIME WITH THEM
When children are involved in a family law action, the most important part of the case is the Parenting Plan. In the vast majority of cases, the parties attend mediation, and through the guiding actions of the mediator and counsel, when involved in the case, the parties reach an agreement. However, if the matter must be ruled on by a judge, that judge looks at over 20 different factors to determine which parent has the better situation for the children, and how time should be divided between them.
PAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT AND SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR KIDS ARE NOT DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER
The Florida Statutes expressly provide that if a party falls behind on child support, it does not interfere with the time sharing the delinquent parent enjoys with the children. Additionally, child support is only due when a judge or the Department of Revenue orders the payment of child support, so in the absence of such an order, one parent should not withhold the child from the parent they think should pay them. That said, child support obligations can be imposed for up to two years from the filing of an action for support, all the way back to when the parties stop living together as a family.
Jake Walter Hannaway, Esquire, is a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 2009. The primary focus of his practice has been helping parents obtain the best result for them and their kids in custody disputes. He has worked with people across the gender and sexuality spectrums. His practice, Hannaway Law, P.A., has offices in Clearwater and Tampa.