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Florida Family Law: An Overview

Family, marriage, divorce and everything in between are huge parts of people’s everyday lives. Whether you have a marital property division dispute in Tallahassee or you’re worried about factoring in time to apply for a marriage license before your wedding in Cocoa Beach, Florida’s family laws should be closely observed and understood by all parties.

LawInfo’s Florida Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. Florida family law attorneys can assist you with any of the following topics (and many more).

Florida Marriage License

Following your engagement, things can start to move pretty quickly for you and your partner. A lot has to be planned for the wedding ceremony and you may find your priority list becoming overcrowded. One of the most important items on your priority list, however, should be applying for a marriage license.

There are two time limits you should account for when working the application of a Florida marriage license into your schedule. Once you complete the application and receive your marriage license, it is valid for only 60 days. You must marry within those 60 days for the marriage to be considered legal in Florida.

However, once you obtain your marriage license, there is a 72-hour waiting period before you are allowed to marry. Therefore, you actually have a 57-day period during which you must get married before the license expires.

Florida Prenuptial Agreement

While it’s not something you’d want to think about as you’re planning your wedding, it may be wise for you and your partner to plan for any contingency, including divorce. In Florida, a prenuptial agreement (“prenup”) is a legal way to protect each party’s interests and establish guidelines for processes like equitable distribution and alimony in the event of a divorce.

You could draft an agreement with your spouse or download or purchase a prenup kit. However, if you get divorced, defending or enforcing a prenup in court without legal representation can lead to a lengthy and expensive legal battle. If each party hired an attorney, though, you could potentially save money and bigger headaches in the future.

Florida Divorce Requirements

Roughly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. It’s a sad reality for many couples in Florida, too. While there are a multitude of reasons why marriages fail, only a few reasons are legally permissible in Florida. Here are the requirements couples must meet to legally qualify for divorce in Florida:

  • One party must have lived in the state for six months prior to filing for divorce.
  • The marriage is “irretrievably” broken, as determined by the court, or
  • One party has been mentally incapacitated for three years or longer.

Florida allows for two types of divorce: a simplified or a regular dissolution of marriage. In a simplified divorce, both spouses must meet these requirements:

  • Both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • Neither party has minor/dependent children together nor is the wife pregnant at the time of divorce.
  • Both parties have worked out and agreed upon the division of assets and liabilities (money owed).
  • Neither party will seek alimony.
  • Both parties are willing to surrender their rights to trial and appeal.
  • Both parties, separately or together, are willing to sign the petition at the County Clerk’s office.
  • Both parties are willing to attend the final hearing at the same time.

A regular divorce, on the other hand, is petitioned by only one spouse (named the “petitioner”). The petitioner requests for the County Clerk to serve the divorce petition to his/her spouse (the “respondent”), who is then required to submit a written response. A regular divorce can be either contested or uncontested, meaning that the respondent may disagree with the terms of the divorce and fight them in court.

When Do I Need a Florida Family Law Attorney?

Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.

Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.

Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Florida family law attorney if you have additional questions.

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