Divorce and family law is its own area of law for a reason – there are unique rules which govern various aspects of the divorce process and a tremendous amount of information. At times, the divorce process may appear like a foreign and daunting endeavor, but by educating yourself about the key concepts involved, you can better position yourself to protect your rights.
At Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC, our Boca Raton divorce attorneys are passionate about guiding clients through their unique legal journeys. This means not only providing the representation they need to address complex issues and protect their interests, but also empowering them with the information and insight that can help them make informed decisions about their future. In many ways, this requires an explanation of key terms and concepts commonly used in the process.
Below, our legal team has taken the time to provide information about a few important terms that can help you better understand divorce in Florida, your rights, and what to expect when you initiate the process.
Alimony is a term many are familiar with, but one few correctly understand. Also referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support, alimony is not always the same in every case, and is also different from state to state. Generally, it refers to the payments one spouse makes to another, often as a means to ensure they maintain the same quality of life they had during a marriage. In Florida, there are different types of alimony that may be used in divorce, both during and after the process:
- Temporary Alimony – This form of spousal support is paid by one spouse to the other while a divorce is pending. Also referred to as alimony pendent lite, it automatically terminates when a divorce decree is finalized, and can be replaced by another form of alimony.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony – A type of transitional alimony, this form of spousal maintenance is designed to assist a spouse as they transition into having to pay for the foreseeable expenses that come with starting a new life without a spouse.
- Rehabilitative Alimony – In some cases, divorcing spouses may need to improve their employability and self-sufficiency post-divorce by pursuing vocational training or furthering their education. When this is the case, that spouse may be granted rehabilitative therapy, which includes a specific plan and an estimated amount of time for its duration, to provide support to the former spouse as they achieve self-sufficiency.
- Durational Alimony – Common in marriages that were short or moderate in duration, this form of spousal maintenance can be awarded to one spouse as a set amount dispersed over a pre-determined amount of time (which does not exceed the duration of the marriage).
- Permanent Alimony – Permanent alimony may be awarded in cases involving longer marriages, or in short-term marriages involving unique circumstances such as mental or physical disability. It is intended to support a former spouse who may be unable to achieve the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage. Although it is called “permanent,” it can be terminated when a spouse remarries. It may also be subject to modifications after divorce if either party can prove a substantial change in circumstances.
Alimony is a single term that can mean many different things, be influenced by various factors (such as the length of a marriage), and be resolved in various ways. For example, some spouses may agree to a disproportionate share of assets or lump sum payments in lieu of alimony. Spouses should also be aware of the tax implications created by spousal maintenance, especially in light of changes under the new tax law this coming year.
2. Uncontested Divorce
This is a commonly misunderstood term in divorce. While some may take it to mean a divorce where spouses are able agree on every issue, it more accurately means a divorce that doesn’t go to court, or which doesn’t involve major disputes and disagreement that require court intervention to resolve. Just because a divorce is labeled “uncontested” doesn’t mean spouses can agree on every issue. Instead, it means they can communicate and compromise effectively enough to resolve any disagreements they do have outside of the courtroom, without the need for litigation.
3. Equitable Distribution
Property division is one of the most importance aspects of divorce, as well as one of the most commonly contested. In Florida, assets and debts are divided according to an equitable distribution model. This doesn’t mean all property is split with an equal 50-50 split, but rather in a manner that is just and equitable according to the individual facts of a case.
4. Community & Separate Property
Community property and separate property are important terms that also relate to property division. Generally, they refer to the classifications of property in divorce, and are critical to determining how the property, assets, and debts or spouses are divided.
- Community Property – In Florida, assets acquired during the course of a marriage are considered community property subject to equitable distribution in divorce.
- Separate Property – Separate property is that which is acquired prior to marriage, or which was acquired during marriage as an inheritance or gift.
While these definitions may make the classification of property seem straightforward, the truth is that it can be a complex endeavor. That’s not only because spouses must prove separate property by use of evidence, but also because there are a number of circumstances when separate property can become community property, such as when separate property funds are comingled with marital funds, or when separate property funds are used to pay for marital property.
5. Parenting Plan
Parenting plans refer to arrangements involving child custody and visitation (or timesharing as it is also known in Florida). These plans can be mutually agreed upon by divorcing spouses with minor children, and can detail time-sharing arrangements, including special arrangements during holidays. When parents are unable to reach agreements regarding custody, or dispute custody, courts may decide custody terms and any parenting plans.
If you have additional questions about any of the terms mentioned above, of if you wish to discuss your potential divorce case, our legal team at Schuttler, Greenberg & Mullins, LLC is standing by to help! Request an initial consultation with an attorney from our firm when you call (561) 336-6082 or contact us online.