Divorced Spousal Rights in Florida
By Bernadette A. Safrath
When a marriage ends, each spouse has certain rights during the divorce process. With no consideration of gender, Florida courts will divide the spouses' property between them. Either spouse can seek alimony and either spouse may be awarded custody of their children as well as child support. Florida does not require grounds for dissolution of marriage so either spouse can file based on "irreconcilable differences" as long as at least one of them has been a state resident for a minimum of six months.
Division of Property
Florida law requires the spouses' property be divided according to "equitable distribution." This means spouses have an equal right to the property, but the property is actually divided fairly, but not always equally. Under Florida law, each spouse retains ownership of non-marital assets and anything the spouse owned prior to the marriage. All marital assets are divided between the spouses according to several factors. The court will consider the length of the marriage, each spouse's role in the marriage -- i.e. wage-earner or homemaker -- the value of each spouse's non-marital assets, whether a spouse specifically requests to maintain ownership of a specific asset (such as a business or interest in a corporation) and whether the custodial parent should maintain ownership of the marital residence. Lastly, the court will consider whether either spouse attempted to wastefully deplete or hide assets prior to or during the dissolution proceedings.
One spouse may be entitled to alimony if she has significantly less assets than the other. A Florida court can award alimony at its discretion after consideration of the factors set forth in Florida law. Factors include: value of each spouse's assets, length of the marriage, standard of living enjoyed throughout the marriage and each spouse's employment situation, including any factor that prevents employment such as illness or custody of young children. Gender does not play a role in the awarding of alimony. However, the court is permitted to consider any fault that led to the divorce, including abuse, adultery and abandonment, which may affect the requesting spouse's right to alimony as well as the owing spouse's obligation to pay.
Custody decisions are made based on the best interests of the child, regardless of the gender of the child and parents. Both parents have an equal right to custody. Florida considers factors including which parent serves as the child's primary caregiver, whether each parent can provide a stable home environment, the bond each parent has with the child, each parent's ability to help foster the relationship between the child and the other parent, the child's preference and any evidence of spousal or child abuse.
The parent who is awarded sole or primary custody of the child will be entitled to child support. Florida courts issue child support orders in accordance with state law. The support amount is based on the parents' total income and then adjusted in proportion to each parent's percentage of that income. Additional adjustments are made based on the number of children being supported as well as the amount of time the children spend with each parent. For example, if parents share joint custody, each having the child for half the year, child support is apportioned differently because both parents spend money providing for the child when the child is in their care rather than for a parent who does not have custody of the child and therefore does not spend a lot of money providing for the child other than the support obligation.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.