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Before you untie that knot, there are a few things you may need to know about divorce law in Florida. First, at least one spouse must have been a Florida resident for six months or more prior to filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. The process begins when one spouse files the petition in Circuit Court alleging that the marriage is irretrievably broken and what they seek from the court. The other spouse then has 20 days in which to answer.

Although fault is not grounds for divorce in Florida, it may, however, be considered under certain circumstances such as property distribution, child custody and other post-divorce arrangements.

In an uncontested divorce, couples agree on these touchy issues before or soon after the original petition is filed. A written agreement signed by both parties and the divorce may become final in a matter of a few weeks. When a disagreement exists, mediation may be used to facilitate a settlement. If this is unsuccessful, a trial may be required, wherein the judge will make the final decision on contested issues.

Couples with no dependent children and no disputed property may be able to obtain a simplified dissolution of marriage. This only works when both parties agree to the use of this form of dissolution proceeding, they have no minor or dependent children, they have no adopted children under the age of 18, the wife is not pregnant, they agree on the division of all of their property and obligations and they agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and want to end their marriage because of serious permanent differences. With this process there is no trial or appeal and financial information is not required to be given. Further, neither spouse can seek support from the other.

If the above conditions are not met, couples must use the regular dissolution of marriage process. This process allows each spouse to examine and cross-examine the other as a witness, and to obtain documents concerning the other's income, expenses, assets and liabilities before having a trial or settlement of the case.

When dividing marital property such as cars, houses, stocks, business interests and other things of value, Florida law provides for equitable distribution. In essence, the marital property should be divided fairly or equitably (not necessarily equally) between the parties regardless of how the title is held. There is no fixed way to determine how the property should be divided. Factors considered include liabilities, assets, the nature and extent of the property, the duration of the marriage and the economic circumstances of each spouse.

Alimony is another consideration, in which one spouse is required to support the other financially. In awarding alimony, the court considers all relevant economic factors, such as the parties' prior standard of living and the length of the marriage, among other things.

Also, do not ignore the important tax consequences when contemplating settlement. For example, consider the dependency deduction for children, the taxability of child support and alimony in their various forms and property transfers. Also, resolve any debts by deciding who should be responsible for mortgage payments, income tax liabilities, credit card debts, etc.

As far as children are concerned, The best interest of the child is at issue. Parental responsibility will be shared by both parents so that each retains full parental rights and responsibilities in most cases. This requires both parents to confer so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. However, the court will designate one parent's home as the primary residence of the child. The other parent is usually entitled to frequent and continuing visitation. If shared responsibility would be detrimental to the children, the court can order total parental responsibility and custody to one parent.

Both parties have a responsibility to support the children financially usually until they reach the age of 18, marry, or become financially independent. The Child Support Guidelines provided by statute must be followed.

Hopefully, your first step in the divorce process will always be marriage counseling. If that doesn't work, consult an attorney. Although divorce is never a pleasant experience, if you are aware of the legal considerations outlined above, you can certainly survive it.