If you are headed for a divorce, it may seem like your future is blurry and confusing. You probably have a host of questions, both about your life post-divorce and about what will happen to you or your kids in the actual process of the divorce.
There is no shortage of questions, but let’s take a look at 10 common questions that people have when they go into a divorce.
1. What Will Happen to the Children?
This is a question that will depend on each individual case or situation, but assuming that both parents are fit and competent and have a meaningful relationship with the children thus far, a court must legally assume that a timesharing arrangement where both parents have equal time with the kids is in the best interest of the children.
There are things that can alter this shared timesharing, such as a parent’s living arrangements, whether equal time is not in the child’s best interest, or whether a parent has a lifestyle that isn’t conducive to equal timesharing (for example, a parent who travels extensively for work).
2. Will I Get Alimony?
Whether a spouse will get alimony largely depends on the duration of the marriage. Generally, shorter-term marriages, which lasted fewer than seven years, will ordinarily not get alimony (although it is possible), while a marriage lasting from 7 to 17 years has a better chance of getting alimony. More than 17 years, and there is a general assumption that alimony will be awarded—if there is a need.
Divorce cannot leave one spouse destitute and the other rich; both spouses are entitled to live the lifestyle they were accustomed to, to the extent possible. That said, often, when couples divorce, they will have to downgrade their lifestyles to some extent.
That’s because the court will also look at the ability of the paying spouse to actually pay. Divorced couples no longer have combined incomes, and it does happen that a court finds that a spouse cannot afford to pay alimony, even though it may be needed by the receiving spouse.
3. What Kind of Alimony Can I Receive?
Alimony can be awarded on a short-term basis to help restart someone’s life or even to help rehabilitate a spouse—for example, paying for educational expenses, paying alimony while a child is an infant, or paying while allowing a spouse to pursue a new career.
Alimony can also be awarded just for a shorter time period, without a “goal” of any kind.
In 2023, Florida ended permanent alimony, so as of now, that is no longer an option for alimony.
4. Can I Stay in the Marital Home?
If parties cannot decide on their own who will live in the marital home while the divorce is going on, a party can ask the court to live in the home while the divorce is pending (or, if the home is ordered sold, until the home is actually sold).
A court will look at who has the means to live elsewhere and who does not, as well as what is best for the children. Any compelling reason why one spouse should be able to temporarily live in the marital home can be considered by the court.
5. Will I Lose All My Property?
It is highly unlikely that anybody loses all of their property in a divorce. Only property considered marital property will be divided between the parties by the court. So, property that belonged to one spouse and remained the property of only that spouse, even throughout the marriage, will be considered non-marital and, thus, not subject to any division at all.
Property that is marital—that is, it was acquired during or appreciated in value during the marriage—will be divided.
Florida does not just divide property 50%-50%, rather, the court will look at what is equitable. This includes seeing which spouse made contributions to the property, which spouse put effort into the property, or which spouse may need the property (or the value of the property) more than the other.
If property is marital, almost any property can be divided by the court. If it cannot be physically divided or shared, like a home or a business, the court will order the property sold and the proceeds divided as the court thinks is appropriate. Property may have to be appraised or evaluated to see what its value is before division.
6. Who Will Pay Bills During the Divorce?
A divorce case could take a long time to resolve if it is not settled quickly and amicably. While the divorce case is going on, bills and expenses are mounting—including bills like car payments or mortgages that must be paid.
Your family law lawyer can ask the court to make a temporary determination of who will pay what bills while the case is going on to keep the spouses from going into financial freefall before the divorce is finalized.
7. How is Child Support Calculated?
Florida uses a mathematical formula to determine child support. The combined incomes of both parents are used as a starting point. Spouses often argue about what each others’ combined income actually is. But once that is determined, the income numbers go into the formula.
The formula also takes into account how much time the children are with each parent. That means that parties may get very little child support if timesharing is about equal between the parties, while support may increase if one parent gets the majority of overnights with the children.
8. How Will I Pay an Attorney?
In some cases, where one spouse has a demonstrated ability to pay, and the other spouse can show that he or she cannot afford an attorney, the Court can order the higher-earning spouse to pay the attorneys fees of the lesser-earning spouse.
9. How Long Does a Divorce Case Take?
As you may expect, the answer to this question depends on how much there is to fight over. Spouses who can amicably resolve issues or go to mediation and work things out have a better chance of resolving their cases more quickly. Likewise, couples with no kids, and few assets, have a better chance of resolving their cases more quickly.
In an ideal scenario, where couples can work things out and come to agreements relatively quickly, a divorce could be finalized in about three to six months, but more contentious, argumentative cases can take years.
10. Can My Divorce Agreement or Court Judgment Be Changed Later on?
Although things like alimony, child support, or timesharing can be altered or amended by a court later on, it is not an easy thing to do. There must be serious and permanent changes to allow a court to modify something you previously agreed to or which the court previously ordered. That means that you should focus on getting your divorce right during your initial case.
You may have many more questions than these. Contact us for help understanding what to expect in your divorce case.