Welcome to The Balaguera Law Firm,  P.A. 

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Family Law Services

Unfortunately, the majority of divorces and family law issues cannot be simplified and are not easy.   Divorce tends to get more complicated when the parties feel strongly about what is at stake.  Disagreement is more common where couples have assets, children or both and cannot agree on how their new lives should be divided.  During this stressful time, the last thing you need add to your plate is filling out forms, figuring out how to file documents with the court yourself or trying to learn the law. For these reasons, you might find that hiring an attorney will make life a little easier and less stressful for you.  The attorney can guide you through the process, explain how things work, and most importantly, prepare and file all the necessary paperwork. Some spouses are still upset about the breakdown of the marriage and are simply not yet ready to speak with one another directly about their wants or needs regarding the divorce.  Finally, you might find that an attorney can be a much needed intermediary between you and your soon-to-be ex spouse.   The attorney is more than capable of handling matters at a trial, and can more easily facilitate settlement beforehand.

Divorce

 In Florida, the divorce process can happen once a married couple’s relationship becomes irretrievably broken. Next, one spouse can file a petition for dissolution of marriage (or divorce) with the local Circuit Court. A copy of the petition must be personally served upon the other spouse. Once the other spouse is properly served, he or she only has twenty days to respond by filing an Answer. Next, the couple must disclose their marital and non-marital assets and come up with a proposed timesharing plan for minor children.  The process can be simple for some couples, but what is considered an “easy” or simplified divorce usually only happens when the parties can agree how things and time with children should be split. This type of “easy divorce” scenario is most common where a couple has few assets, if any, and no minor children. More often than not, divorces are complicated processes that involve issues such as: child support, time sharing, equitable distribution and alimony.

Child Support

Child support can be awarded as part of the divorce process, a separate action to enforce or modify child support or a paternity action.  In Florida, there are statutory guidelines (a mathematical formula) a court will use to determine child support.   In general, child support will be determined based on the income of both parents and the amount of time the child spends with each parent.   It is also possible to get retroactive child support or enforce an already existing court order if child support is not being paid. 

"Custody" of Children

In Florida, the term “custody” is no longer used to describe the amount of timesharing or responsibility a parent has relating to his or her child(ren).  A lot of different factors will determine how many overnights or holidays a child should spend with each parent, or whether both parents should be responsible for making important decisions.  Also, parenting plan and timesharing schedule will need to be established prior to the divorce.  This can be done by agreement or by a judge after each side presents their case.  If decided by a judge, he or she will decide based on what is in the child(ren)’s best interests.

Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets

Marital assets are typically divided equally between the parties, but Florida Statute sets forth factors that may allow for unequal distribution of assets.   Marital assets include: bank accounts, money earned during the marriage, real estate or other property.  Of course, determining marital assets is not always so simple.  Which assets are truly “marital”?  Should there be an offset in assets to the spouse who has agreed to accept responsibility for the home that is worth half of what the couple paid for it? If your spouse gave you a really nice diamond tennis bracelet or watch, does that count as a marital asset?  These are very important and sometimes complicated questions that need to be answered before providing the Court with a proper and accurate disclosure.

Alimony

Alimony, or spousal support, may be awarded as part of the divorce process.  Sometimes it is awarded by a judge after a trial, or agreed upon as part of a marital settlement agreement.  Many factors affect whether alimony is appropriate.  The Court will look at the length of the marriage, the education level of the spouse who requested support and their ability to earn a living.  If appropriate, the award of alimony is primarily based on two factors: 1) need and 2) ability to pay.   If permanent alimony is not appropriate, the court may instead choose to award a form of temporary spousal support to help rehabilitate the spouse or assist that spouse in absorbing the expense of setting up their new life as a single person. Durational alimony, rehabilitative  alimony and "bridge the gap" alimony are examples of temporary spousal support.