Fort Lauderdale Contested Divorce Attorney
Contested Divorce Attorney Serving Pompano Beach
Being a party in a contested divorce in Fort Lauderdale or Pompano Beach does not necessarily mean the divorcing spouses disagree on everything. For example, some couples agree on child custody but not about property division and spousal support. As long as there is at least one issue on which the parties' divorce lawyers are unable to reach an agreement, the divorce remains contested.
Most Florida couples understand that delaying the resolution of outstanding issues lengthens the timeline of the divorce process, which can add to frustration, expense, and unpredictability. In extreme cases, a contested Florida divorce can last years before being finalized. Therefore, both parties stand to benefit from seeking to avoid a long, costly, and painful contested divorce.
2 Types of Divorce in Florida
There are two types of divorce: at-fault and no-fault. Florida is a no-fault divorce state; however, in the case of adultery, an at-fault divorce can be granted.
- No-Fault Divorce: One spouse can sue for divorce without having to accuse the other of any wrongdoing. Claims of incompatibility, irremediable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences can be entered into the court record without having to blame a spouse. This is the model which exists in Florida.
- At-Fault Divorce: In states other than Florida, a spouse may be required to establish some measure of fault, like adultery, domestic violence or substance abuse. THIS IS NOT APPLICABLE IN FLORIDA IN ORDER TO OBTAIN A DIVORCE, notwithstanding the fact that the Sunshine State is a "no fault" state, there may be circumstances within a divorce proceeding where the evidence of misconduct of the other spouse becomes relevant to particular issues within the divorce. For example, domestic violence and/or substance abuse would be relevant to determination of parenting issues, and wrongful dissipation of the marital estate (spending marital money on a paramour) would be relevant to determination of equitable distribution, and possibly alimony as well.
Divorce is the permanent end to a marriage. The court oversees how the marriage will be untangled regarding custody, property division and future financial support. One or more of the forms of separation may allow couples to take the time to calm their tempers and see how living apart changes their outlooks.
The time between marriage and divorce is a good period in which to use individual and couples counseling, and to think carefully about what life after marriage will look like. During this time, consulting with a Parkland or Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney can help you better understand your options, as they apply to Florida laws.
When Is Contested Divorce Necessary?
Sometimes, despite an individual's best intentions, reaching agreements with an angry soon-to-be-ex-spouse can be difficult. In these instances, the parties must go to court to work out their issues. If there is disagreement about ending the marriage, division of property, the details within a parenting plan, amount of child support, spousal support, or if one party refuses to sign all the divorce documents, the divorce is considered contested.
Additionally, high net worth divorces often require a forensic accountant's engagement, particularly where a business owner may be attempting to hide assets or income. Let's go over some common questions you may have about the contested divorce process.
Unlike many other states, Florida does not recognize "at fault" divorces where one party commits an act like adultery or cruelty that leads to the dissolution of the marriage. Irreconcilable differences and mental incapacity are the only acceptable grounds for divorce in Florida.
However, Florida courts do consider factors such as "moral fitness" when making judgments for processes such as child custody, alimony, property division, etc. So, if one spouse engages in behavior such as adultery, substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, etc. it may result in a less favorable judgment from the court.
What's a Motion for Temporary Relief?
Some issues cannot wait until the divorce becomes finalized. A spouse might need money to support the couple's children or temporary alimony to cover daily expenses, as well as additional attorneys fees and suit monies.
In this type of situation, either or both parties can file requests for temporary relief in court. The judge holds a hearing on the motion for temporary relief and orders an action. Once the motion for temporary relief is in order, it remains in place until the court finalizes the divorce, unless otherwise modified by the court.
Should You Stay or Go?
If a divorcing couple has children, a contested divorce may create an unhealthy environment for the kids. Parents should speak with their divorce attorney about separating during the divorce process. Always seek guidance from a family lawyer before making rash decisions, as such situations can be dealt with much more effectively if done by the book—not in the heat of the moment.
How Do Courts Define Marital vs. Nonmarital Assets?
While each divorce is unique, many cases share common issues. If a divorcing couple owns property or acquires other assets during the marriage, they must obtain and itemize all records. These are known as "marital assets." Equally important is gathering evidence of "nonmarital assets"—those you acquired before the marriage, or by non-interspousal gifts during the marriage. To learn more about how courts divide marital assets, visit our property division page.
How Are Assets Divided?
Although a spouse may not have a claim to assets given to the other party during the marriage, such as money left to the other party in a will, property acquired during the marriage is generally considered marital property, including inter-spousal gifts. Retirement plan assets, including pensions, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and 401k plans may be subject to the 50/50 division of assets between parties. Florida courts may also assign the responsibility for certain debts acquired over the marriage term.
What About Your Debts?
Typically, the court orders each party to pay outstanding debts equally. The court may order one of the parties to pay an unequal distribution of debts. If one spouse accumulated a large amount of debt, he or she might be required to repay more of the debt. However, in many cases, the court may not consider which partner accumulated more debt during the marriage.
Contested divorces are among the most complex areas of Florida family law. Therefore, both parties must have a highly experienced Fort Lauderdale contested divorce lawyer at their side to interpret the law and articulate their case before the court.
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