DIVORCE IN FLORIDA
Most have neither planned nor prepared for divorce. Lack of knowledge about the divorce process combined with the emotional turmoil you are experiencing could cause anyone to make poor decisions that can adversely affect their life for years to come.Obtaining a divorce, or dissolution of marriage, can be an emotional experience, but an experienced family law attorney can advocate on your behalf and protect your interests, and the interests of your family, throughout each phase of the process. Florida has complex divorce laws which detail the many requirements a person petitioning for divorce must meet before the divorce is granted. In Florida, one of the divorcing parties is first required to be a state resident for 6 months preceding filing of a divorce action, Also, there has to be a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken. What that means is if either party to a divorce says "it's over", then a divorce action will go forward. If the marriage is not irretrievably broken and there is a reasonable likelihood it can be saved, a legal separation may be in order if you will not be living with your spouse. However, Florida does not recognize a legal separation, in the absence of domestic violence between the parties.
WHAT IS DIVORCE GOING TO COST ME? CAN I AFFORD IT?
At my office, we work on an advanced fee (deposit) basis. No attorney can guarantee how long a case will last or give you a definite "cost" for your case. There are many factors that control your final cost including the length of a case, complexity of the case, opposing counsel, how cooperative the other side is, or if one party just wants to "win" rather than focusing on resolving the case.
DO I REALLY NEED TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?
Many people resolve themselves to the idea that they are capable of handling their own divorce. However, if you were charged with a crime, you would likely hire a criminal attorney to protect yourself, right? You wouldn't want to gamble with your freedom. The divorce process is complicated and navigating the legal system to obtain good or optimal results requires knowledge and experience. With your children, home and financial security at stake, you do not want to use your situation as a learning experience. You also save yourself a lot of money in the long-run when you have a divorce decree that is written clearly and helps avoid future disputes. At Jonathan Dingus, Attorney at Law, we have the knowledge and experience to guide you and advise you through the hurdles that will inevitably come through your divorce.
DO I HAVE TO PROVE MY SPOUSE IS AT FAULT?
The short answer is no. In Florida, there is no requirement for either side to prove the other is at fault or the cause of the divorce. This means the marriage is irretrievably broken regardless of the actual cause. This allows the parties to focus on restarting their lives and if there are children, focusing on their best interest rather than re-hashing past behaviors. However, if there are serious issues, you can also allege other grounds for divorce, including physical/emotional abuse, abandonment, drug abuse, etc. These issues may be relevant in dividing property as well as deciding who gets custody of the children. Adultery may be relevant if the person requesting custody or a large property award is having an affair that broke up the marriage, or if the adulterous behavior has been flaunted in front of the children.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY CHILDREN?
My office and the Florida courts regard children as the highest priority in the divorce process. We protect children throughout the court proceedings, and encourage our clients to do the same. DO NOT make your children a pawn in your divorce. Your children will suffer, and you will regret your behavior in the future, whether through your own guilty conscience or through a stringent court judgment. The children should not be brought into the proceedings. Messages should not be passed through the children. If your ex-spouse is late on child support, do not tell your child "Tell Daddy/Mommy to pay me the money" when you send your child for visitation. This confuses the child and makes them feel even more fragile than they already do as children of divorcing or divorced parents. My philosophy is to help you develop a new parenting relationship with your ex-spouse so the focus is on the children's future, not your past marriage. Jonathan Dingus, Attorney at Law, reserves the right to request that the court allow our withdrawal from your case if we determine that you are not focused on the best interest of the children involved in your situation.
CAN I GET ALIMONY? DO I HAVE TO PAY ALIMONY?
There is only answer to these questions: It depends. Alimony in Florida is designed to ensure that each party is able to meet their reasonable expenses post-divorce. There is no formula for alimony. The state of the law on this subject is in a state of change; meaning, the Florida legislature may change the requirements for a spouse to receive alimony, the amount of alimony, and its duration. The judge will decide based on the length of the marriage, work prospects for each party, conduct of the parties, the ability of the spouse to pay maintenance, whether adultery was committed, and a whole host of any other factors the judge deems relevant. Each judge and each county is different. Based on our knowledge with the different judges and your individual case, we can give you our best estimate of the likely outcome.
HOW DO I PROVE ADULTERY?
Proving adultery is difficult. If you have incriminating emails or text messages, you have to prove that you did not obtain them by illegal means. Even if you are married, there are rules about privacy issues, even if a computer is in the same household. Talk with an attorney prior to attempting to retrieve any incriminating information to make sure your actions are legal and do not invade your spouse's privacy. Also, you may not record phone calls between your spouse and their accused lover and then try to use this information in court. It is against the law, and it is criminal There are legal ways to prove adultery. If adultery is an issue in your divorce, speak with an attorney. We will tell you whether or not the adultery is relevant to your case. If it is, we can advise you how to legally obtain the evidence to help you with your case. It can be very expensive to prove adultery and unless you are at risk of paying a large amount of alimony, it may not be worth it.
WHY DOES ANYONE USE ADULTERY AS A GROUND FOR DIVORCE IF IT CAN BE SO EXPENSIVE?
Even though adultery is more common (or just more exposed) than it used to be, judges still do not look favorably on adultery. Some attorneys believe that proof of an affair may sway a judge to their point of view. However, some angry spouses use the adultery claim as a way of attempting to achieve moral vindication. They feel that they will have some psychological satisfaction of proving that their husband/wife was unfaithful and that he/she was the cause of the end of the marriage. However, rarely is this vindication worth the time and expense. In fact, this vindication may work against the non-offending spouse, given the particular circumstances in each case.
WHEN IS MY CASE GOING TO BE OVER?
Most divorce cases last anywhere from 3-12 months. It can be shorter, depending on the parties' cooperation, or it can be longer, if emotions run high and pockets run deep. Even though a very long, expensive, and drawn-out divorce is almost never necessary, it can and will happen if one or both parties are unreasonable. Our goal is to bring each case to a conclusion through a negotiated settlement. This saves the clients a great deal of emotional and financial strain. Once the divorce is underway, the initial pleadings have been filed, and the parties have attended one or more settlement conferences, the emotions that run high have usually cooled somewhat, and the parties can focus on resolving their case as cost-effectively and quickly as possible.
DO I HAVE TO GO TO COURT?
Not always. Typically, we have opportunities to come to partial or complete resolution in settlement of contested issues. We can use mediation, settlement conferences, and other avenues to resolve a case without formal court proceedings. We have been able to fully resolve some divorce cases in as quickly as 30 days. Even if we cannot resolve all of the issues, we can settle most of the issues. In the small number of the cases where there is no settlement of all issues, we can either go through a short or long trial. A short trial can be over within 3 hours, whereas a trial on more complex issues can go on several days or longer.
WHAT ABOUT DIVISION OF PROPERTY?
Jonathan Dingus, Esq., has extensive experience in handling high-asset, complex and difficult divorce cases. We watch the financial side of your marital estate with a keen eye toward achieving an equitable division of assets and marital property, including real estate, business interests, investment accounts, deferred income and pensions. Our goal in your case will be to help you achieve the solution that enables you to move forward with your life from the strongest financial position.
ARE YOU THE RIGHT SOLUTION FOR ME?
In representing you, we will work to obtain the outcome that is the best for you and your children. We will discuss your situation, goals, and future plans. We will then strive to achieve these goals with the most appropriate legal strategy whether it is litigation, a negotiated settlement, or mediation. When necessary, I am successful and have much success in using the court system to protect your rights and achieve your goals.