Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law
Child support, alimony, financial accounts, visitation, and the marital home are factors in a Florida divorce, but are also factors when first separating from you a spouse. When separating from a spouse there are many questions that often arise, including who will stay in the house, how bills will get paid, etc. The other question that faces many couples is when child support should be paid and how much child support will be. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I have many clients that need information about how to proceed once the choice is made that separation is necessary. If you decide to file for divorce, then you can also file an action with the court to address these issues on a temporary basis until the court can finalize the divorce. The idea is to get from point A, the filing of the divorce, to point B, the end of the divorce.
How do you have temporary needs established in a divorce? When you file for divorce in Florida, the other party has 20 days to respond to the petition. While you can file a Motion for Temporary Needs to request the court provide you with child support, spousal support, the home, etc., it cannot be scheduled for a hearing until either the 20 days expires or the other party responds to the petition, whichever occurs first. Once your spouse responds to the petition, the motion can be scheduled for a hearing. The hearing will either be held in front a court magistrate, which is allowed to hear cases and provide a ruling to a judge, or the judge him/herself will hear the motion.
Can we reach an agreement before the hearing? Yes. If your attorney and your spouse’s attorney can reach an agreement between you both prior to the hearing, then the agreement can be formalized into a written document and both parties will need to sign it. Once the agreement is signed, it is sent to the judge so that it may be signed an entered by the court as order regarding temporary needs. The order can address anything from support issues to a temporary time-sharing plan, so that the parties have a workable schedule for visitation with the children, if there are children involved.
If we cannot reach an agreement, how do we move forward? Once the hearing is scheduled with the court there will be a date assigned for both parties to be heard on the issues. At the hearing, much like at trial, both parties may have witnesses and present evidence regarding their financial needs, issues involving the children, the marital home, etc. The judge or magistrate will listen to the evidence and then decide what the best scenario is for the parties while the divorce is pending. Often, due to the temporary nature of the order, alimony may be awarded at an increased amount then what will happen in the final hearing, and child support may factor in certain things to help keep the parties in a sustainable place from the date of the hearing through the finalization of the divorce. What this means is that the court may be more creative with the outcome on a temporary basis so that the parties can make a transition without harming either party financially.
Before moving forward with your divorce, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your rights and options.