Florida Family Law FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Divorce and family law is a legally complex and ever-evolving area of law. It’s normal to have lots of questions about your rights and the legal process. I am attorney Jodie Bassichis, and I have concentrated in this area of the law for over 30 years. Based on my experience in thousands of cases, I answer some frequently asked questions, and I would be glad to discuss your specific situation in a free initial consultation.
Can I avoid going to court and still get a dissolution of marriage (divorce) in Florida?
Yes. If I represent you and your case is uncontested, neither party will have to attend court but for the final hearing set for only five (5) minutes. Uncontested means the parties agree on all issues of their case and each party cooperates to get the case over with. All documents will be transmitted to the court electronically.
What if my spouse is violent or harasses me?
If your spouse has threatened violence or if you are concerned for your safety should you file for divorce, you can go to court to seek a domestic violence restraining order. In most cases, a judge will issue an injunction (temporary order) to stop the spouse or partner (or ex-spouse) from contacting you, stalking you or harassing you. There will be a hearing within 15 days to determine if the protection should be continued as a permanent restraining order.
Does divorce mediation work? Is it binding?
Many contested divorce cases are resolved at mediation, which is usually a prerequisite before trial. It is certainly far less expensive to resolve issues with an independent mediator than to pay lawyers to do the great deal of work necessary to prepare for trial before the court. Mediators cannot force a settlement on anyone but they can certainly use their skills to show people what would be a reasonable settlement, and further advise them as to what they can expect a judge to do if their case goes to trial. I was formerly certified as a mediator by the Florida Supreme Court and sometimes conduct private mediations. I can attest that it works.
Does Florida still have alimony?
Yes, although it is never automatic and it is less common than it used to be. Spousal support, or alimony, can be awarded for a short term to help a lesser-earning spouse get financially established after divorce. It can also be long term or even permanent in longer marriages if the spouse lacks the capacity to become self-supporting.
I was not married to the mother of my child. Can she prevent me from seeing my kid?
An unmarried father has the same rights as a father whose child was born of wedlock. However, you must first establish paternity (parentage) through agreement, a DNA test or declaration of paternity. If you are not on the birth certificate a new one will be issued. Once you are legally recognized as the father, you may petition the court for time-sharing or even residential custody. Many men do not know their rights and do not realize that a Department of Revenue order to pay child support does not address your parental rights. The law firm of Jodie Bassichis, P.A, has long been a supporter of father’s rights.
How long does a divorce take in Florida and does it matter who files first?
It does not matter who files first, especially in light that a counter petition may be filed. How long the case will take depends on whether it is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce can take only a few weeks, depending on how quickly the mandatory paperwork is completed. An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree on absolutely everything such as child support, time-sharing with minor children, division of property and debts, and alimony (if any). A contested divorce can take six months or longer, depending on its complexity and how many issues will be litigated.
Is a business considered marital property?
When one spouse started a business or formed a business partnership during the marriage, that ownership stake is presumed to be part of the marital estate for purposes of asset division. A business valuation may be necessary to determine the worth. If the business will continue operating, the spouse must be compensated accordingly for their equity marital share. That may be accomplished through a structured buyout, a lump sum settlement or an offset with other assets.
I am paying too much in child support. Can I get it reduced?
Child support is determined by a statutory formula based on the incomes of both parents, the number of children, and other factors. Child support cannot be reduced just because you feel it is a burden. But child support is always modifiable due to significant change in circumstances, such as a change of income of either parent, a change in the parenting plan, or changes in the needs of the child.
Should I represent myself in court?
Unless you have legal training or the case is extremely simple it is best to have a lawyer advise you. Without legal training it is difficult to know what your rights and responsibilities are. If you do not know what your rights are, you may not ask for them or you may agree to things you don’t need to agree to. You also run the risk of legal errors or unforeseen conflicts that would land you back in court in the future.
Have More Questions?
Call my Hollywood office at 954-627-1499 to schedule a free consultation. I handle divorce and family law throughout South Florida.