The financial implications of a Florida divorce can be so substantial that it could limit your ability to recover in the future. Divorce is a time in an individual’s life when very intense emotions surface — anger, feelings of betrayal, grief, and intense fear concerning the future. In order to get through the process, you will need help from friends and also from professionals who specialize in handling these matters. The reason for needing professional help is simple — people tend to make bad choices when in a highly emotional state. The decisions you make during a divorce concerning your finances in particular will have long-reaching consequences for years to come, impacting your ability to recover from the marital dissolution. Having someone on your side who has knowledge and necessary legal expertise will help you make the best decisions possible in this very difficult time of your life.
There are various financial aspects to a divorce. The first is property division. Once it is determined what assets are part of the marital estate, Florida law requires a court to “equitably distribute” the property if the parties cannot agree on a reasonable plan themselves. This does not always mean the court will divide assets equally, but rather the standard of “equitable distribution” requires the court to consider various statutory factors in its decision-making process. Certain assets may be liquidated, while others may simply be transferred to one of the parties. The court will decide the issue of the equitable distribution of the assets before considering alimony.
Once the court has made a decision as to the division of property, it will consider possibly awarding alimony to one of the spouses. There are four forms of alimony — bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. Bridge-the-gap alimony is for the purpose of helping one spouse transition to single life and can be for a period of two years or less. Rehabilitative alimony has as its purpose to help one spouse acquire or redevelop skills, education, or work experience according to a well-defined plan. Durational alimony gives economic support to one party for a specific time period and terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving the alimony. The time period for a durational alimony award may also not continue for a period of time longer than the marriage existed. Permanent alimony will be awarded to a party in order to provide for his or her needs as established during the marriage if that party cannot financial support him or herself. It also terminates on the death of either spouse, or the remarriage of the party receiving the alimony. Alimony can be paid periodically or as a lump-sum.
Both parents have the responsibility to provide financial support for their children. If a court makes a child support award, those amounts can be made either directly to the custodial parent, or indirectly as mortgage payments, or payments of health or other benefits the child will receive. A parent will be required to continue child support payments until the child turns eighteen, marries, is emancipated, or joins the armed forces.
All of the above financial issues have tax aspects. There are tax consequences of certain property transfers as well as alimony and child support payments. Also, the custody and child support awards affect your ability to utilize the dependency deduction for your children on your personal income tax.
The advice of an experienced attorney is critical if you want to make the most expedient and effective decisions possible in your divorce.