Understanding divorce law is a tricky adventure. When you are going through it, almost everyone has an experience or an opinion about how things should go or what you should do. The truth is that every case, like every relationship, is different and while there may be some similarities between cases, no two cases will end up the same way. Judges and lawyers rely on previous court cases to provide guidance in the courtroom based on how appellate, or higher courts, have decided, but in each case there will be some facts that make the case different enough that a new result can be reached. When friends and family are making their suggestions, it is important to realize that they want to be helpful, but gaining real advice should come from an experienced attorney that can help you to have accurate, updated information in making your decisions.
At Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., our experienced family law team has represented clients as diverse and different as the cases, in which they are involved. From Adoption to Dissolution of Marriage, we hear many of the same questions or misinformation that readers may be pondering, which could have a huge impact on your family law case. So, let’s set the record straight.
5. “My friend [insert name here] said that she didn’t have to turn over any documents of her financial records in her divorce last year, so I won’t have to either.”
NOT TRUE! In the State of Florida, Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.285, clearly states that both parties have to exchange financial affidavits and documentation in a dissolution of marriage, or divorce. The Rule provides a list of what documents have to be produced and exchanged by both parties. In some uncontested cases, where both parties agree to everything and they simply need a judge to make it official, the parties can agree to not exchange this information if they both feel that they are aware of the financial status of each other, but this is extremely rare, and almost always, a financial affidavit will be required.
4. “When my parents got divorced, we saw my dad every other weekend, and that’s what I want for timesharing now.”
NOT TRUE! Times have changed since our parents got divorced. While each case is different, and parties can agree to have timesharing accomplished how they wish, each judicial circuit in Northeast Florida has minimum guidelines for timesharing. In many cases, this is near 60% for one parent, and 40% for the other. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg when the judge is deciding how timesharing will work in your case. In Fla. Stat. 61.13, there are 22 factors that the judge will consider in determining how timesharing will be split between you and your ex.
3. “If we each have 50-50, then we don’t owe each child support, right?”
NOT TRUE! The division of time is a very important component to the calculation of child support under the State of Florida Child Support guidelines. But it is not the only factor. Both parties total incomes, who pays for daycare or aftercare, who provides health insurance, and the number of overnights spent at each house are the numbers used to calculate child support. If one party makes substantially more than the other, or one party pays a large amount of daycare or insurance expenses, the equal timesharing may not result in neither party paying child support.
2. “My child is 14 years old, and that’s the age that she can talk to the judge or decide where she wants to live.”
NOT TRUE! There is no statute or rule that states that once a child reaches a certain age that the court has to hear from them, or that they get to decide timesharing. A judge has to decide if he is willing to hear the child testify based not only on the age, but also the maturity of the child. Parents can decide to use the child’s input in making a parenting plan that works for the family, and the judge will consider that too, but it is only one factor of the 22 factors that a judge uses to determine timesharing in the best interest of the child.
1. “I don’t really need a lawyer for my divorce.”
Sometimes. It’s true that some divorces are very straight forward, and when you can get along with your soon to be ex-spouse, you can handle your divorce on your own. But when there are assets to be divided, and children in the middle, there will be issues. In many instances, spouses are feeling very vulnerable while going through a divorce, and the person that you have relied on to be on your side, is now, the other side. It’s never wrong to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney who can take the emotions out of it, and tell you plainly if you are coming to a fair agreement or selling yourself short.
In short, divorce is hard and the court system is intimidating. At Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., we work hard to represent our clients and their priorities in these difficult times. Before you make the major decisions that will affect your life for the foreseeable future, talk to an experienced family law attorney to get the truth on your case.