As the founder and principal of Zachary A. VanDyke, P.A., in Panama City, I have helped hundreds of people navigate their Florida divorce. I help military personnel, vets and civilians. Because I have been through difficult family law proceedings myself, I understand all the things that can go wrong and how to avert a crisis.
Here are answers to the most common questions I get. You can always call me or email me for a low cost consultation to get your specific question answered at no charge. Call 850-215-6445 or send me an inquiry email and I will be happy to help.
What are my rights during a divorce?
Because Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, you do not have to give a reason why you are getting divorced. One of you must have lived in Florida for at least six months before the petition for divorce was filed. You have the right to be safe if there is a history of abuse. You have the right to receive an equitable distribution of the assets and the debts (which will be fair but not exactly 50-50). You may have a right to alimony and child support. You have the right to seek a parenting plan that is in the best interest of your child or children. Every divorce has its own quirks, and your attorney can answer more specific questions.
Do we have to go to court?
The fact is that most cases at some point or another do require a court appearance. It is possible to use alternative modalities to avoid going to court, though. The more that you and your spouse can agree on, the easier things will be, and it will be less likely that you will have to go to court.
Are there alternatives?
Yes, there are. In many cases, it is wise to first try and work things out without going to court. There are alternatives to traditional litigation (going to court) for a divorce. If you and your spouse are both interested in working together to dissolve your marriage in the most efficient way possible, you may want to look into mediation or collaborative law. These are alternative dispute resolution (ADR) modalities. These modalities, or “ways,” of divorcing work well for some couples, and the ADR process can be less stressful for children, less formal, less costly and more private than a courtroom divorce.
How long is the divorce process going to take?
This can vary greatly depending on your specific situation. In cases where the divorce is not contested and there are no kids and very little property, your divorce could be over in three or four months. If you and your spouse do not agree on things and there are children or many assets to consider, it is more likely that your divorce will take up to a year. In complex cases, a divorce could take up to two years.
Am I going to lose my kids?
Florida law is written with the belief that it is beneficial to children to have both parents present in their lives. In most cases, parents share physical and legal custody. This means that both parents spend quality time with the child and both parents make decisions regarding the child's health care, religious upbringing and education, for starters. It is uncommon but not unheard of for one parent to have sole custody in cases where there has been abuse, neglect, addiction or incarceration.
Am I going to have to pay money for the rest of my life?
The most common worry when people get divorced besides the effect on their kids is how the divorce will affect them financially. Every case is different, and how much is paid out in spousal or child support will depend on the incomes and the abilities to generate income of both parents. The amount that is paid or received can also be affected by the length of the marriage and, in some cases, the reason the marriage is being dissolved. There are no hard and fast rules. Alimony, for example, can be paid by either party in any amount for any length of time.
Can I keep my retirement?
Things to consider when answering this question are the length of the marriage (shorter marriages, under five years or so, typically do not include retirement and pensions in what is divided) and the roles of each spouse. For example, if one spouse worked for 30 years of the marriage and the other was a homemaker or did not work, then it is likely that the pension or retirement funds would be considered “joint assets.” This is a very good question for your attorney.