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The Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Regret, Sadness, and Stress of a Divorce in Florida
When a marriage is broken, there are only two types of divorces in the universe...a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are by far the least expensive and the least stressful to accomplish, so I'll address that first.
In uncontested divorces, both the husband and the wife, with sadness or with gladness, accept the fact that the marriage is irretrievably broken. They have come to terms with how assets and debts of the marriage should be divided, and they agree on the upbringing of their children, including visitation for the non-custodial parent and the amount of child support which should be paid, according to Florida Statute Chapter 61.30. The husband and wife may also agree on alimony or support by one spouse for the other spouse, and what to do with the marital home, pets, jewelry, retirement accounts, IRS and credit card debt.
In an uncontested divorce, intervention by an attorney is needed to push the divorce process along to a final hearing. The divorce lawyer will draft the necessary legal documents to accomplish the goals of the spouses who are separating. These legal documents are called a marital settlement agreement and a final judgment of divorce, or the divorce decree. The divorce attorney will accompany the Petitioner, that spouse who actually "petitions" the court for the divorce, to the courthouse for a final hearing before a family law judge on the day set for the divorce.
Oftentimes, if the spouses cannot agree to the terms of their divorce, mediation can help resolve domestic disputes. The attorneys and the spouses attend mediation to accomplish first, an understanding of the law of this case and the rights of each party, and secondly, to effectuate an agreement by the husband and wife afterwards.
Many divorce cases are settled by mediation. It is a collaborative and amicable approach to resolving issues facing divorcing couples. However, where no agreement can be reached, or where several issues of the divorce remain unresolved, for example, who will have residential custody of the children, then the attorneys and their clients rely on the family law judge to decide what happens. This is done by a trial and is called a contested divorce.
Contested divorces can cause resentment, revenge, anger, fear, stress, anxiety, depression, low self esteem, loneliness, frustration, grief, guilt, hate between two people who, presumably, used to love each other enough to get married and have a family together. Contested divorces can result in mental and emotional crisis, to the point of requiring a medical doctor or psychiatrist or psychotherapist and medication; contested divorces can result in loss of business, loss of job, loss of income, loss of family support, cheating, lying, credit card debt, huge legal bills and most damaging of all, detriment to any children who are witnesses to domestic violence, screaming and abuse between the mother and father, or those who become innocent victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment at the hands of a parent. The drama of a contested divorce takes its toll on all concerned including children. It also costs a lot of money.
In Palm Beach County, the parties to a contested divorce oftentimes must retain litigating divorce lawyers, in addition to accountants or forensic CPAs who help track marital monies and establish what the parties' actual incomes are. Also, therapists, psychologists, and social workers may be required to assist with custody battles and visitation of the non-custodial parent. All these specialists and expert witnesses eat away at the marital funds, perhaps leaving the divorcing couple with huge debt and unpaid bills following a divorce, or even bankruptcy.
Pre-nuptial agreements, those agreements which are signed prior to the marriage, may alleviate the opportunity for a divorce to become contested. If the agreement is valid and enforceable, with financial disclosure, and having been signed at least 30 days prior to the wedding, with counsel on both sides, it will generally be upheld in court; the agreement lays out the terms of the parties' dissolution of marriage in advance. Pre-nuptial agreements give the husband and wife some certainty if and when the occasion arises to require a dissolution of marriage. The down side of a pre-nup is that it can cause a break-up of the relationship before the parties ever get married.
In the State of Florida, where one spouse wishes to get a divorce, he or she must allege residency for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce, and the fact that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If the other spouse does not want the divorce, he or she has no choice. Keeping a relationship or marriage together is hard work. Getting a divorce is a process which also requires effort, emotion and thought, even when the parties agree to agree.
All Florida divorcing spouses who have children must complete a Parent Education and Family Stabilization class before a divorce will be granted by the court. This parenting class is mandatory because it helps to minimize the emotional trauma of the divorce on the children. Each parent must independently complete the course before the divorce enters the court. They must provide the court with a certificate of completion to prove the obligation has been met.
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"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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