Divorce is a sad reality but it’s something for which you should be prepared if your marriage is in trouble. Before hiring a Florida divorce lawyer, you should know the basics about the law in Florida and the overall process.
First, the technical term for divorce in Florida is dissolution of marriage and there are two grounds for a dissolution. The marriage is irretrievably broken or the mental incapacity of one of the parties is established. Mental incapacity must be demonstrated for the past three years.
In most cases, grounds for divorce are that the union is irretrievably broken. Its definition is broad and fits most situations. When dissolution is sought because the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is a minor child of the marriage, or the Respondent denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken in his/her Answer, the court may take any of the following actions:
- Order either or both parties to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi, or any other person deemed qualified by the court and acceptable to the parties ordered to seek consultation;
- Continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed three months, to allow the parties a change to reconcile; or
- Take such other action as may be in the best interest of the parties and the minor child(ren) of the marriage.
In addition to the petition for dissolution of marriage, there is another alternative but the circumstances in which it is appropriate are very narrow. Annulment law in Florida is not defined in the statutes. Instead, it is based on years of previous case law. The following are grounds one may allege to try to obtain an annulment in Florida.
- One of the parties is under 18 years of age and did not obtain the consent of his/her parent or guardian to enter into the marriage;
- One of the parties was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when she/her married and therefore did not have the mental ability to consent;
- Physical incapacity to consummate the marriage;
- Consent to the marriage was obtained as a result of fraud, deception, duress or force;
- Bigamy; or
- Mental incapacity.
If the couple has consummated the marriage, it is generally seen as ratification and the marriage is no longer voidable, regardless of the previous circumstances. An annulment is filed as a lawsuit and the basic annulment procedure is similar to divorce.
Once you know these basics, consult an experienced divorce attorney who handles these cases. You don’t want a real estate attorney or an attorney who doesn’t handle these cases. Family law can be complex and the experience and knowledge of a good attorney is vital.