Step 5: Asset division, child custody and spousal support
The thorniest issues in most divorces involve property distribution, spousal support and child custody. If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on all of these issues, it is in your best interests to do so.
Although Florida espouses “equitable distribution” when dividing assets and liabilities, there are a number of factors which can influence the outcome. Most judges will consider the station of each spouse and their contributions to the marriage.
- Length of marriage
- Career or educational sacrifices made by each spouse
- You and your spouse’s economic circumstances
- Financial and other types of contributions to the marriage
- Each spouse’s contribution to income growth
- Liabilities incurred by each spouse
- Waste or destruction of assets following the filing of the divorce petition
In dividing assets, a judge will distinguish between marital and non-marital property. This is often distinguished by the following criteria:
- Assets set aside in a prenuptial agreement
- Income derived from separate property
- Property owned prior to the marriage that is not commingled
In Florida, there is often a presumption that property acquired during the marriage is considered marital. During the divorce, you and your spouse may agree to a value for each asset, or the judge may assign a value. The judge may then split the property among the parties, or, if the property cannot be divided, they may award the property to one party and an equitable financial compensation to the other.
Alimony or spousal support is awarded on the basis of the following criteria:
- Length of marriage
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Age and health of each spouse
- Each spouse’s financial resources
- Contributions to the marriage
- Length of time for a spouse to complete education or professional training
A court may award the following types of alimony:
- Bridge the Gap—this type of support may not exceed two years and is intended to help transition from married to single life
- Rehabilitative—this is intended to support a spouse while they complete school or vocational training
- Durational—if the marriage was less than 7 years in length, then a short term of support. If between 7 and 17 years, then a moderate period of support.
- Permanent—if the marriage was longer than 17 years in duration, then an indefinite period of spousal support may be awarded.
Alimony may take the form of periodic payments, a lump sum, or a combination.
Florida has instituted some progressive laws regarding child custody. These laws are found in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act or uccje . These laws encapsulate the following two objectives:
- Each child should have frequent and continuing interactions with both parents
- Both parents should share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing
Florida courts will try to award joint custody unless there is clear evidence of parental incapacity, e.g. violence, abuse. Shared parental responsibility involves both parents in decision making with regard to minor children. In order to educate parents,
Florida requires that divorcing parents take and complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. This four hour course will prepare you to work with your spouse to develop a time-sharing and parenting plan.