THE LAW OFFICE OF

Irene Annunziata, P.A.

SOUTH FLORIDA FAMILY LAW & DIVORCE ATTORNEY

Divorce & Separation

The State of Florida is a "no-fault" state therefore, it is not necessary for you to prove that your spouse did anything wrong in order for you to obtain a divorce or dissolution of marriage. In fact, courts are authorized to grant you a divorce even if the other spouse does not want or consent to the divorce.

All that's required to obtain a divorce in Florida is:

  • One of the parties to the marriage must reside in Florida for six (6) months prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
  • The marriage must be "irretrievably broken" and one of the parties must testify to that fact under oath.
  • There are numerous factors to consider when contemplating the dissolution of a marriage.
  • The first step is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
  • If you are the party who initiates the Divorce/Dissolution process, you are the Petitioner. If not, you are called the Respondent. After receiving service of the petition, the Respondent has twenty (20) days to file an Answer and Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to it or a default may be entered.
  • After the Answer is filed, both spouses are required by law to exchange certain documents and information which are used to prepare for trial and to assist the court in judging certain aspects of the case.
  • Once all required documents and papers have been filed, the case is ready to be set for trial. A trial may last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending upon the amount of evidence that is presented and the complexity of the issues involved. However, prior to trial, the parties' and their attorneys are required to attend mediation whereby they attempt to negotiate a settlement of all of the outstanding issues; which may include child custody, child support, alimony and distribution of property and debts.

Either through the courts or mediation, my goal is to work toward a fair resolution of your concerns, while avoiding unnecessary legal expenses and emotional distress.

Child Custody & Visitation

Child custody and visitation decisions are some of the most important aspects of a divorce or dissolution proceeding.

In determining how parental responsibilities should be shared, you and your former spouse or partner must determine:

  • The time sharing schedule for your child(ren) which includes:
  • How many days will they spend with their mother or father?
  • Where will they attend school?
  • How will the holidays and birthdays and other special events be shared?
  • How you and your former spouse or partner will make decisions which affect your child or child(ren).

When determining child custody and visitation matters, you should carefully consider your child(ren's) current and future needs, keeping in mind your economic situation as well as your spouse's. You should also consider which parent has the superior caretaking ability and availability.

Child Support

Child Support is one of the most important determinations that a court will make in a case in which minor children are involved. The Court may also modify an existing child support order if there has been a substantial change in either parent's financial situation.

Contrary to popular belief, both parents have an obligation to provide support to children of divorce or separation, not just one parent. The amount of the obligation each parent has is based upon statutory factors that take into consideration the respective income of each parent as well as the time each parent spends with the children.

If you need to determine child support issues as you begin a divorce or dissolution of your marriage, are currently in the process of determining child support, or if you are having problems or issues with a court-ordered child support arrangement, our firm can help.

Division of Property

When people think about divorce one of the questions they almost always get around to asking is how is our property and debt divided? Property and debt division is an important consideration in every divorce even if you do not always feel great about bringing it up. Division of property and debt is understandably one of the most troublesome issues in a divorce proceeding.

The court has the responsibility to fairly distribute the marital and non-marital property and debt of the spouses. Marital property and debt is generally any items acquired during the marriage. And no, it does NOT matter whose name the property is titled in or whose name the debt is acquired in.

On the other hand, non-marital property is pretty much everything that you owned before you got married. Courts generally consider each spouse's contributions to the marriage, both monetary and non-monetary. The ultimate goal is to arrive at a fair solution which takes into account the whole of the marriage.

Alimony

Alimony in a divorce or dissolution case is based primarily on two important factors: need and the ability to pay. Florida courts have the authority to grant alimony (spousal support) to either party in a divorce or dissolution of marriage. The alimony award could be either permanent, durational, rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, or a lump sum award.

In awarding alimony the Court must consider whether the spouse who is requesting alimony has the need for the support AND that the other spouse has the financial ability to pay that support.

Assuming that burden is met, there are several other statutory factors that a court can then consider in determining what, if anything, would be a fair alimony award.

Alimony award factors include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage (the court will generally try to maintain that standard if reasonable.)
  • The duration of the marriage (a long term marriage will generally create a stronger presumption of dependence than a short term marriage.)
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party (these factors often contribute to a court's determination of a spouse's ability to support himself or herself.)
  • The financial resources of each party, the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each (as we saw above, the issue here is one of need versus ability to pay.)
  • When applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment (the court may award a temporary or rehabilitative alimony sum for the purposes of helping a spouse to become self supporting in the near term.)
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
  • All sources of income available to either party.