The Florida Department of Health reported that in 2018 there were 156,186 marriages statewide. Meanwhile, there were 77,054 divorces or annulments that year. Florida ranks #8 in the country with approximately 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people annually. Single parents with children account for roughly 70% of the households in Florida living in poverty.

National Trends and Expenses

The vast majority of states have experienced a reduction in divorce rates in the last 10 years. This is largely the result of fewer marriages, or couples marrying later in life. The costs associated with divorce have continued to rise. For example, in 2018 in Florida, taxpayers spent $1.9 billion in matters regarding “family fragmentation.”

Dissolution of Marriage in Florida

The process of divorce is termed as “dissolution of marriage” in Florida. Either spouse may file to end a marriage through dissolution. Florida is among the states that do not assign fault in this process. The only grounds permitted for a dissolution is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

The basic requirements for a divorce is the existence of a marriage, and that one party has been a resident of Florida for at least six months. Potential outcomes of the divorce include the division of assets and debts, support awards, parental responsibilities, and more. Each divorce matter will be unique with its own factor and circumstances.

Financial Disclosure

Upon filing a petition for divorce or dissolution, a financial affidavit must be submitted within 45 days. Both parties must disclose all financial information, including income, debts, tax information, bank statements, and more.

What is a Parenting Plan?

There are additional issues that must be addressed when the divorced parties have a minor child. One of the primary concerns is developing a parenting plan. This is a document that assigns responsibility for minor children among the parties. It will also generally have a schedule of designated parenting time.

Some key issues must be addressed in these arrangements. These include decisions regarding the child’s education, medical care, any religious considerations, etc.
A parenting plan will have the following requirements:

  • It may be created and mutually agreed upon by the parents—then must be approved by the court
  • When the parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court may intervene
  • Courts may make a “parenting plan recommendation”
  • Parenting plans are subject to applicable laws including:
  1. Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
  2. International Child Abduction Remedies Act
  3. Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Florida’s courts and legislature have long maintained a policy that minor children should have a relationship with both parents. For this reason, they encourage shared rights and responsibilities regardless of marital status. The court is supposed to make decisions fairly without regard for factors such as age, gender, etc.

Purpose of Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

Florida statute 61.502 explains various divorce laws including the general purposes of the UCCJEA. It helps to avoid “jurisdictional competition and conflict” between courts in other states regarding child custody. The state that is positioned to “best decides the case” will make custody rulings according to the child’s best interest. It provides uniformity and encourages communication to prevent abductions and avoid unnecessary litigation.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Courts may assign shared or sole parental responsibility. In a shared arrangement, both parents have responsibility for making major decisions on the child’s behalf. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, a court order may be needed.

Shared arrangements may involve allocating individual responsibilities to one or both parents. For example, decisions related to the child’s education may be jointly the responsibility of both parents.

Sole Parental Responsibility

Sole responsibility is another option that makes one parent responsible for key decisions. As with most decisions, courts generally act according to what they believe is in the child’s best interest.

Orders of Support

Courts that handle marital dissolution cases may need to make judgments, issue orders, and provide enforcement for orders of support. These may involve financial support for a former spouse (spousal support or alimony) or a minor child (child support). A support order may be an interim measure (temporary) or final.
Supports orders create a monthly financial obligation. Child support obligations typically terminate when the child reaches the age of 18. Florida requires the Department of Revenue to enforce these court orders.

Health Insurance in Support Orders

A court order for support may also contain provisions related to health insurance coverage for a minor child. This applies to health insurance coverage that is “reasonable in cost.” The term reasonable is when the “incremental cost of adding” coverage is not more than 5% of that parent’s gross income.

The insurance plan should provide coverage in the county where the child resides. When necessary, the court may create a customized arrangement to cover medical expenses between the parents. For example, these costs may be allocated among the parents on a percentage basis of net income.

Factors Considered in Determining a Child’s Best Interests

When the court is making critical decisions related to the child they may consider some of the following:

  • The “demonstrated capacity and disposition” of the parents to properly address the needs of the child
  • Any history that suggests a parent is able or unable to provide stability for the child
  • Geographic concerns and access to transportation
  • The physical and mental health and fitness of the parents
  • The preference of the child when deemed as appropriate based on maturity
  • Any history of alcohol or drug abuse and many others

The Collaborative Law Process

Legislators in the State of Florida are committed to having issues amicably resolved when possible. Courts are encouraged to promote “collaborative” agreements among the parties. In issues relating to the child, it is preferred that the parents establish a healthy working relationship. Also, the courts seek to avoid litigation that consumes its resources.

Experienced Legal Representation for Marital Dissolution in Palm Beach County

At Roy & Associates, P.A, we have spent years representing families in this area in many aspects of family law. We recognize the importance of understanding each client’s unique circumstances and providing compassionate guidance in these matters. Contact the office today at (561) 729-0095 for a consultation.