Florida No-Fault Divorce Attorneys

Unlike some other states which require one or both of the parties to be at fault, Florida Law allows for something called a “No Fault” Divorce. You may be asking yourself, “what is no-fault divorce?” This means that the party filing for divorce does not need to place fault on their spouse for why they're filing for divorce but rather, can indicate a reason as predefined by the state. This facilitates the divorce process and maintains privacy.

What is No-Fault Divorce?

Florida only requires that one of the parties show that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. This means that it only takes one unhappy person to file for divorce, and there is nothing the other spouse can do about it. Neither spouse has to “prove” anything other than that they are convinced that the marriage cannot be saved. This allows for one person in a marriage to have the ability to file for divorce without the other party’s consent, or without the other party doing anything wrong.

Benefits of a No-Fault Divorce

While this may seem to oversimplify things, it allows for a much more efficient and cost effective divorce process, as it eliminates the parties’ burden to prove that one or the other is at fault. It also eliminates the court of the burden of making a fault decision when in reality, many marriages end as the result of legitimate disagreement between the parties more than one or both parties’ misbehavior. Under the Florida No-Fault Divorce law, either of the parties can simply let the court know it isn’t working, and that they’d like the marriage dissolved.

This also saves the parties from bringing up what can sometimes be painful personal matters in a public forum, and can help the proceedings from devolving into “mud slinging”, as the parties are aware that neither person has to be the “bad guy”.

Just because no-fault is required to file for divorce, doesn’t mean that fault can’t be used or argued during the proceedings. In fact ignoring the fault of one or both of the parties is a mistake that may cost your client significant points in their case. If one party dissipates or wastes marital funds, or incurs debt without the other party’s knowledge, or mistreats the other spouse or the children, these issues can affect alimony, spousal support, and distribution of the marital assets.

No-Fault Divorce Law

Florida law allows that the court can make an unfair distribution of marital debts or assets in favor of one of the spouses if the court finds that the other spouse has inappropriately wasted or dissipated marital assets.

Equitable distribution

Florida Statute 61.075(1), and later subsection (i) states that “In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, or in a proceeding for disposition of assets following a dissolution of marriage by a court… the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant favors, including: (i) The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition”

Alimony

Further, if one party has an affair, that party’s adultery can be considered by the court in fashioning alimony. In fact, Florida Statute §61.08(1) states that “The Court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.

So interestingly, even though Florida is a no-fault state for the purposes of filing a divorce, the court can consider the faults of the parties in making their decision. The significance of this should not be overlooked. The first statute referenced above states that while the court is to presume that each party should receive exactly one half of the marital assets and debts, if a party is shown to have wasted or depleted these assets, the court is well within its authority to order that the one party receive an unequal distribution. Sometimes it take the form of one party receiving more than half of the assets, such as a retirement or savings account, and sometimes it takes the form of the wasteful party having to be responsible for all or most of the marital debts.

As for the second adultery statute, this is an often used law when it comes to alimony hearings. While there is no direct translation into alimony amounts as “punishment” for an adulterous spouse, the general concept is that if a party wasted marital funds on an affair, or otherwise caused some depletion of marital assets the court can use this as a factor.

Additionally, as Divorce Courts are courts of equity, the court is well within its power to assign a higher alimony amount to the victim of adultery based on that factor. It should be important to note that an overhaul of the alimony statute is expected later in 2015, and it’s impossible to know whether or not adultery will remain a factor that the court can consider in making any rulings regarding alimony.

Parenting Plans

Perhaps most powerful of all is Florida statute §61.13, which outlines the factors the court can consider in establishing a parenting plan for any minor children born of the marriage. In this statute, the Legislature lists 20 separate factors that the court can consider in establishing a parenting plan, many focused on potential “faults” of one party or another, such as drug or alcohol abuse, or exposure of the child or children to litigation. This list of factors (A through T in the statute) can consume a huge party of any divorce proceeding involving children.

Why Use a No-Fault Divorce Attorney?

All of these statutes should serve as a reminder that “No Fault Divorce” doesn’t mean that a party can simply walk away from a marriage without being accountable for their actions. The Florida legislature has given the courts broad powers to address spouses who commit misdeeds during the course of the marriage, especially when those actions have a negative impact on the other spouse. No matter how the court accomplishes the task, it’s clear that just because a no-fault divorce law is required in Florida, that doesn’t mean that fault can’t be a significant factor in the outcome of a divorce. In any instance, it is important that you have legal counsel that can guide you through a stressful time.Our divorce attorneys can ensure you receive what is rightfully yours.