Family Law in Florida


Family law in the state of Florida is the body of law which governs two people if they were married or had a child together. Any disputes between those two people must be handled exclusively in the family law  courts of the Florida county in which one of the parties has resided for the last six months.  


If The Parties Were Never Married


If the parties to the dispute were never married they will be treated as strangers. The portion of the unmarried parties’ disputes that involves division of assets or debts shall be handled in the civil courts of their county based on contract and equity law.  This usually means an unmarried couple bought a house together and have to use a partition action to divide the house amongst themselves.  

If the unmarried couple had a child, then all matters relating to the child shall be handled in the family law court in the Florida county where the child or children have lived for the last six months.  

The Florida family law court will consider the best interests of the child when deciding which parent will spend what time with the child.  Whether it’s week to week or allocating a holiday schedule for the child, the court has complete power to determine the minor children’s schedules.  Most parents, however, come to an agreement amongst themselves in regards to the children’s schedules. 

Making decisions for the child is also allocated by the Florida family law courts.  The courts may decide that only one parent will properly consider the best interests of the child and therefore that parent will make all the decisions for the child.  The Florida family law court may, in the alternative, decide that both parents can keep the children’s best interests in mind and therefore each parent will be assigned an aspect of the child’s life to be responsible for.  For example, one parent may be responsible for the child’s education decisions while the other parent is responsible for the child’s health decisions.  

Most parents agree to share all the decisions for the child jointly.  The day to day decisions for the child, such as the clothes the child wears or what the child will eat, will typically be handled by the parent who is watching the child at the time. 

Child support will be determined by the Florida family law courts based on a formula which inputs the incomes of both parents, the time each parent spends with each parent and the child care and health care expenses paid by each party on behalf of the children. 


If the Parties were Married


If the parties were married, then the parties will unwind their lives via a divorce or dissolution of marriage.  One of the parties must have been physically present in Florida for at least six months to be a resident of Florida and thus be eligible to obtain a divorce in Florida.  

A divorce will require an accounting of all of the parties’ assets and debts and a subsequent labelling of those assets and debts as either being marital or non-marital. 

If a debt or asset is agreed to be or found to be marital that debt or asset shall be divisible by the Florida family law court.  A marital debt shall be divided 50/50 by the Florida family law court and if the marital asset or debt is not divided equally the Florida family law court must issue written finding as to why those marital assets and debts were not divided equally. 

If one party has anticipated financial needs post-divorce that than they cannot meet through their own post-divorce income, then that party can petition their future ex-spouse for alimony.  To award alimony in Florida, the Florida family law courts must determine that a need truly exists and that the other party has the capacity to pay for that need.

If alimony is awarded in the Florida family law courts, the alimony must have a length or a period of time within which it will be paid.  The length of alimony is determined by the length of the marriage. 

Nothing about alimony in Florida involves a formula.  All alimony decisions are made by the Florida family law judge on a case-by-case basis.  

Family law in Florida is complicated and textured subject that requires and experienced family law and divorce lawyer to adequately guide a person through the family law courts in Florida.  

Russell Knight is an experienced Naples Florida family law attorney



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