Quick Summary – The Most Important Things You Need to Know
The following is my top 10 things you need to know at the start of your divorce case in Sarasota, Florida:
1. Talk to a Sarasota divorce lawyer about the facts of your case. It is always less expensive to start a case correctly, than to fix mistakes after the fact. Many attorneys provide free initial consultations, where you can ask questions and get a better understanding of your case.
2. The divorce process is much more than a lawsuit. Apart from the end of your marriage, divorce changes relationships with family and friends. Divorce can upend your finances, and affect your mental and physical health. Be prepared for these changes. Consider counseling, support groups, financial advisers, and other non-legal sources of help.
3. Florida is a no fault state. The party requesting a divorce simply has to allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There is no need to claim “cause” – such as adultery or abandonment.
4. There is no “legal” advantage to being the first spouse to file for divorce. However, the first party to file the case may gain a tactical advantage because he or she will have hired an attorney, and will have started the process rolling. The non-filing spouse may then be left in a position of scrambling to hire an attorney, and completing the responsive paperwork.
5. The filing of a Sarasota divorce case will trigger a Standing Order that is immediately enforceable against the person who filed the divorce. The Standing Order is enforceable against the non-filing spouse when he or she is served with the Standing Order. The Standing Order provides significant protections and restrictions on both parties. I have linked to the order if you would like a more detailed review:
6. In theory, a final judgment, ending the marriage in your Sarasota divorce case, can be entered on the 21st day after date the petition was filed. However, in Florida the entire case must be resolved before the Final Judgement (divorce) is granted. This means that until you reach an agreement with your spouse on all issues, or go through a trial, your legal status will remain “married.”
7. Florida is not a “notice pleading” state, where a party is allowed to make general requests. In other words, at the start of your Sarasota divorce case, your petition for dissolution of marriage must be carefully prepared to request the result you want at the end of your case. A poorly prepared petition may result in your case being dismissed, or may prevent the court from awarding you what you intended to request.
8. Marital property may not be what you think it is. Under Florida law, the presumption is that marital assets and debts will be evenly divided. Many times people confuse title to an asset (or name on a credit card) with whether an asset is “marital” or separate. That is a mistake. For example a car might be titled to one spouse, but still considered a marital asset. The same holds true for retirement accounts that were earned during the marriage.
9. There is no magic age when children get to choose which parent with which they spend the majority of time. For more information about child custody, I have linked to my section on this subject: Child Custody in Sarasota, Florida
10. Equally splitting the children’s time with their parents has become much more common than it was in the past. However, an equal split of time, does not mean that neither parent will pay the other child support. For more information about child child support, I have linked to my section on this subject: Child Support in Sarasota, Florida