There are important Florida statutes that impact and provide guidance to families experiencing a transition from a unified family unit to that of a divorced family. The purpose of these laws is:
This is a divorce, but can PEACE be involved?
Whether your issues are finalized through an agreement reached between spouses, a judicial determination after hearings in court, or a combination of the two, at some point there will be an end to the issues and the disputes. How are these issues determined? What if we cannot agree as to some issues and we can agree to other issues? These are probably just a few questions that may be racing through your mind now that a decision to separate families and homes has been made. The easiest way to address the issues is to consider them in the same order as they would be determined, in a worst-case scenario, by a Judge.
Florida law requires the issues in a dissolution of marriage action to be addressed in a specific order, as they are all interrelated and depend upon the prior. Similar to building blocks, one on top of the other. Experienced Family Law attorneys often utilize an acronym referred to as ‘PEACE’ when walking a client through the necessary building blocks.
P = “Parenting Plan” which includes all non-financial parenting issues regarding the minor children subject to the dissolution proceeding. Florida law requires the creation of a Parenting Plan, which is a contract as to how you as parents agree to address your co-parenting after the separation of households. The two most important parts of a Parenting Plan will determine parental responsibility (how decisions are made for the children) and time-sharing with the children (this used to be referred to as “visitation”). This is the foundation for all other issues as it will impact the calculation of child support, the amount of time the children will spend with each parent and on what schedule, how daily decisions are made, how disputes are resolved, holiday time sharing and many other joys and duties of parenting. There are minimal requirements for the contents of a Parenting Plan, but it can be as specific as the parties’ desire. You should note that as of the time of the drafting of this article, there is no presumption in Florida for any particular type of time-sharing schedule (i.e. 50/50). All matters regarding the minor children will be determined based upon their best interests.
E = “Equitable Distribution” is where the court or your marital settlement agreement will identify all assets and liabilities that were accumulated during the marriage, in order to fairly distribute the same between the two of you. There is a starting point presumed in Florida statutes of an equal division of marital assets and liabilities, but this does not mean that everything is sold and the money is equally shared. That could be one resolution to the problem, but it is not typical. Usually, assets are identified as marital or non-marital and assigned values. Each party is entitled to an equal value of marital assets and obligated to pay an equal share of the debts. In order to accomplish this, there may be a payment of a lump sum of money from one spouse to the other to equalize assets and liabilities.
A = “Alimony” (also known as Spousal Support) is another financial aspect of some divorce cases. Alimony is determined based upon one party’s needs and the other party’s ability to pay. There are many forms of alimony any various ways it can be paid (lump sum, periodically in monthly or yearly increments). Certain forms of alimony are presumed and favored in longer marriages and disfavored in shorter marriages. The identification of marriage is set forth in three categories:
Each case is decided based upon its own facts and circumstances, and in the event alimony is appropriate, the form and duration will still be fluid concepts. There are no formulas or guidelines set by Florida Statutes to calculate a specific alimony amount. Another important note is that as of the time of the drafting of this article, permanent alimony does still exist under Florida Law, despite multiple attempts by the legislature to abolish the same.
C = “Child Support” is initially determined pursuant to a statutory calculation (referred to as Guidelines) that takes into consideration the income of both parents from all sources, any allowable deductions, and the number of overnights that the children spend with each parent. There are situations when it may be appropriate to change the child support amount awarded to a parent from the amount calculated pursuant to the guidelines, to add or impute additional income to a parent based upon certain circumstances, or to not permit certain deductions from a parent’s earnings to reach net income. The Guidelines for each family are specific to the situation of that family and are determined based upon particular factors.
E = “Everything Else” that needs to be addressed that is specific to your family’s needs. It can include both financial and non-monetary issues. An example would be the payment of the other party’s attorneys’ fees or professional expenses incident to the divorce, which is based upon need and ability to pay (similar to alimony stated above), or perhaps a name changes for one of the spouses.
No matter what or how your issues are determined in your dissolution of marriage, there will be PEACE.
Our family law attorneys have decades of experience in assisting families facing all types of issues through the creating of a Parenting Plan or, if necessary, presenting the necessary evidence to a Judge to determine the best interests of your family’s needs.