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Contested Florida Divorce

I’m attorney Arnie Gruskin and I have practiced law in south Florida for 32 years. I have substantial courtroom experience and I would be happy to represent you in any divorce or family law matters in Fort Lauderdale, Broward, Boca Raton, Palm Beach or Miami-Dade. Feel free to call me days, nights or weekends at 954 525 8848 (and in Palm Beach at 561 247 0404, and in Miami-Dade at 786 704 8345). The great majority of my practice is devoted to divorce and family law. Family law includes paternity cases where the parties were never married but have a child together.

The best route on all of these types of cases is to reach an agreement with the other side inorder to save attorney fees, time and aggravation. But sometimes that is simply not possible without compromising too much and giving away too many of your rights. If you cannot settle with your spouse or other party, the judge will have to decide the issues at a contested divorce or paternity hearing. Witnesses will be called and evidence will be presented such that the judge can rule

The issues involved in a Florida divorce case may include division of property and debt. As a general proposition , assets acquired during marriage, such as money, investments, valuables etc, will be divided 50-50 although there are some exceptions (such as where one party purchases an item during marriage with funds that they had before marriage). It doesn’t usually matter whose name the asset is in if it was acquired during marriage with marital funds.

One party in Florida may be awarded exclusive use of the marital home inorder to raise the children. The home would be sold, with the proceeds divided between the parties once the youngest child is emancipated. Debts are presumptively divided 50-50 if run up during the marriage. It doesn’t matter whose name the debt is in if the expenditure was for a marital purpose. If a party doesn’t earn or have enough to pay their 50% share, the other party may have to pay more than 50% of the debts.

Resolving issues concerning children can of course be difficult in a contested Florida divorce. The issues may include how much time each party gets with the kids. (we no longer use the terms “custody” or visitation” in Florida. It’s about “timesharing”. During a divorce hearing the judge will listen to testimony about what is in the best interest of the children in terms of how much time each parent should spend with the children. The court will consider how attentive each parent is to the children, whether each parent make wise parenting decisions regarding the children, and whether their needs are being taken care of by each parent etc.

The fact that one parent gets more time with the children doesn’t mean (necessarily) that the other parent is a “bad parent”. Child support will be decided pursuant to the Florida child support statutory formula. The parents cannot just agree on a number of their choosing. Child support is based on the income of each parent and how much time each parent has with the kids (other factors can be considered by the court when calculating child support).

Another important issue for the court to decide in a contested Florida divorce is alimony. Alimony means one party has the need for financial assistance and the other party has the financial ability to assist. Permanent alimony is for long-duration marriages if the statutory criteria are met, or for moderate duration marriages if appropriate based on clear and convincing evidence after consideration of statutory factors, It is also for short duration marriage upon written findings of exceptional circumstances. In the award of permanent alimony the court must make findings that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable. In a long-term marriage a party may claim that they cannot afford the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

There is also bridge the gap alimony which assists a party with legitimate, identifiable short term needs. It is to assist a party in transitioning from being married to being single. (it may not exceed two years) Next is rehabilitative alimony which is a temporary type of alimony designed to allow a spouse for example to receive support while they are finishing up with their education or otherwise acquiring skills to be able to go out and make more money than they are currently making . Durational alimony is for a set period of time. (it cannot exceed the length of the marriage) It is for short or moderate duration marriages, or long-duration marriages if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. Most alimony and child support can under the proper circumstances be modified. (Bridge the gap alimony is not modifiable as to amount or duration.) A court can also award temporary alimony while a case is pending in Florida.

In paternity matters the court may have to decide whether the purported father is indeed the biological father. (the parties can also agree for example after a DNA test that the man is or isn’t the biological father) Once paternity is established, the issues will be about timesharing and child support obligations.

If you have a contested divorce, or paternity matter in Florida, you certainly want an attorney with courtroom experience. Needless to say, you should not be looking for the loudest or most dramatic lawyer. You want some well versed in Florida law, and who pays attention to your particular matter. It is probably not a good time to look for the cheapest lawyer in town. That can get you into difficulty as a poorly paid lawyer may not be motivated to work hard on your matter.

It is suggested that you look for a lawyer that gives you value for your money. And it should be remembered that in Florida, the other party may be ordered by the court to pay some or all of your attorney fees if they have the ability to assist you, and you don’t have the financial means to pay a lawyer.


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