Divorce attorneys in St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach Ponte Vedra and the St. Johns areas with the experience you need are only a phone call away at St. Johns Law Group.
Get advice early. The Seventh Judicial Circuit has a Standing Family Law Court Order that is effective as soon as the divorce is filed. This can help you if you are filing or really limit you if you have just been served and we can help guide you on how to best act or react.
We offer you experienced St. Augustine based divorce attorneys that are ready to guide you through the complexities of a dissolution of marriage and fight for your rights in Court. Whether uncontested, contested, with children or without children, each divorce brings with it unique circumstances and pressures that we understand.
We can help you break the complex process of divorce into something that is simple. Take this example: Even the word “divorce” has become more confusing by the Florida legislature redefining the word to mean “dissolution of marriage.” What’s that? Traditionally, the term “dissolution” has been associated with dissolving a corporation or a partnership and this has transferred to also being used to refer to dissolving a marriage, which is essentially a partnership. While most of family law can seem complex, we hope that through examples and explanation of the reasons behind the laws and rules that govern a dissolution of marriage, we can filter the legal mumbo jumbo and give you straight advice that puts you ahead in the end.
Florida is a “no-fault” state, meaning it has eliminated fault as a ground for divorce. Now, the only requirement is that the marriage be “irretrievably broken.” However, fault may be considered under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility, especially where the fault of one spouse has cause the depletion of marital assets.
Who can file. Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.
The divorce process can be highly emotional and traumatic for the parties as well as any children. Marriage partners often do not know their legal rights and obligations and you can lose those rights or be saddled with overbearing obligations if you do not get the representation you need. While court clerks and judges can answer some of your basic questions, they are prohibited from giving you legal advice. Statutory requirements and court rules must be strictly followed or you may lose certain rights permanently.
At St. Johns Law Group, we are ready to answer your legal questions regarding your rights in a divorce, your children’s rights, your property rights, and your responsibilities resulting from the marriage. As knowledgeable lawyers in the field we can analyze your unique situation and help you make decisions in your best interest and that of your family. And, we know the St. Augustine Family Law system.
DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
(Compliments of THE FLORIDA BAR)
The regular dissolution process begins with a petition for dissolution of marriage, filed with the circuit court, in the county where you last lived together as husband and wife or in the county where either party resides. Either the husband or wife may file for dissolution of marriage and the petitioner must allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The petition sets out what the person wants from the court. The other spouse must file an answer within 20 days of being served, addressing the matters in the initial petition and, if he or she wishes, including a counter-petition for dissolution of marriage raising any additional issues the answering party requests the court to address.
Court rules governing divorces require that each party provide certain financial documents and a completed financial affidavit to the other party within 45 days of the service of the petition or several days before any temporary hearing. Failure to provide this information can result in the court dismissing the case or not considering that party’s requests. The parties or the court can modify these requirements except for the filing of a financial affidavit, which is mandatory in all cases in which financial relief is sought. A child support guidelines worksheet must also be filed with the court at or before any hearing on child support. This requirement may not be waived by the parties or the court.
Some couples agree on property, parental responsibility, and other post-divorce arrangements before or soon after the original petition is filed. They then enter into a written agreement signed by both parties that is presented to the court. Other couples may disagree on some issues, but eventually work out their differences, and also appear for a final hearing with a suggested settlement they ask the court to accept and incorporate into a final judgment. In such uncontested cases, a divorce can become final in a matter of a few weeks.
Mediation is a procedure to assist you and your spouse in working out an arrangement for reaching agreement without a protracted process or a trial. Its purpose is not to save a marriage, but to help divorcing couples reach a solution and arrive at agreeable terms for handling the break-up of the marriage. Many counties have public or court-connected mediation services available. Some counties require couples to attempt mediation before a trial can be set.
Finally, some couples cannot agree on much of anything and a trial with each side presenting its case is required. The judge makes the final decision on contested issues.
Coming to an agreement rather than leaving decisions up to a judge empowers parties to create terms with which they are more likely to comply.
SIMPLIFIED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
(Compliments of THE FLORIDA BAR)
Certain couples are eligible to dissolve their marriage by way of a simplified procedure. This type of dissolution was designed so the services of an attorney may not be necessary. Couples are responsible, however, for filing all necessary documents correctly, and both parties are required to appear before a judge together when the final dissolution is granted. You can, however, retain an attorney to represent you even in an uncontested matter. The cost for such services is generally much less than in a contested case. You can further reduce your attorney’s fees if you ensure that you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all issues which will reduce the work needed by a lawyer.
Not everyone can use this simplified procedure. A husband and wife can use the simplified dissolution of marriage only if all the following requirements are met: (a) they both agree to the use of this form of dissolution proceeding; (b) they have no minor (under 18) or dependent children; (c) they have no adopted children under the age of 18; (d) the wife is not pregnant; (e) at least one of the parties has lived in Florida for the past six months; (f) the parties have agreed on the division of all of their property (assets) and obligations (debts); (g) neither party is seeking alimony; and (h) both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If you cannot meet all of the above requirements, you will have to follow the procedure of the regular dissolution of marriage process.
There are substantial differences between a simplified and a regular dissolution of marriage. In a regular dissolution, each spouse has the right to examine and cross-examine the other as a witness. Each spouse also has the ability to obtain documents concerning the other’s income, expenses, assets and liabilities before a trial or settlement. With a simplified dissolution, financial information may be requested by either party but disclosing financial information is not required.
If the husband and wife seek a dissolution and prefer to use the simplified form of dissolution, they should both contact the clerk of the circuit court in their county and obtain a copy of the booklet titled “Simplified Dissolution Information” for more detailed information and forms.