[I am a lawyer in Florida and I have a good general knowledge of Florida law. I know something about the law in other US states but I am not licensed to practice law in any state other than Florida. My purpose with this myTake, and others which will follow, is to give you an understanding of the general requirements of the law in various subject areas.
I am beginning with the law of divorce because discussions on this subject arise frequently on this site. It is NOT my purpose to give you advice concerning your individual case if you are in the midst of a divorce, or are adjusting to life after a divorce. If you need legal advice regarding a specific situation, go hire a lawyer. I can help you to locate a lawyer, if you need that assistance, but I am not your lawyer!]
In the past, once a couple was married, the law made it difficult for them to get a divorce. The person who wanted the divorce was required to prove that they had a sufficient reason to get a divorce. “I don’t love him anymore!” just wasn’t enough. The law was imbued with the Judeo-Christian values which encourage people to view marriage as a permanent and irrevocable commitment.
The reasons which were considered to be sufficient were adultery, abandonment, abuse, alcoholism, or homosexuality. Once these grounds were established, the courts would then punish the “offending” spouse by a restriction or even loss of visitation rights with children, excessive child support and alimony obligations, and uneven distribution of assets and liabilities which had been accumulated during the marriage.
I certainly do not condone adultery, abandonment, abuse, alcoholism, or homosexuality within a marriage. However, this rigidity and hostility in the law of divorce created a hostile environment and, too often, divorced parents continued to be at war with each other while children got caught in the middle. Fortunately, as younger people got involved in making laws, there was a growing willingness to admit that forcing people to stay together was a horribly and absolutely, tragically dumb idea.
Florida now has “no-fault” divorce. To get a divorce in Florida, you need not prove that your partner has done anything wrong. If you tell a judge “my marriage is irretrievably broken” and give the briefest explanation (“I don’t love her, we have lived apart for four months now and I don’t want to go back to her”) then the judge will grant you a divorce.
If your spouse is opposed to the divorce, they can ask the judge to delay the divorce for six months and to order both parties to attend marriage counselling but I have never seen a judge do that. If your spouse is opposed to the divorce on religious grounds, the judge will still grant the divorce.
You occasionally hear people talking about agreeing to give their spouse a divorce but that is an ancient notion. You don’t need your spouse’s consent to get a divorce.
This does not mean that fault is irrelevant in a divorce case. If your wife is a drug addict, you can present evidence of that to try to get sole custody of your child. If your husband has been unfaithful and spent money supporting a mistress, you can present that evidence to support a request that the funds he spent on his cute little secretary be deducted from his half of the marital assets and be given to you instead.
Sometimes, divorces get delayed for various reasons and occasionally one party has an urgency to get divorced. The most common reason is that one of the parties and their new partner are pregnant and they want to be married before the baby is born (though this reason seems to not be an urgency for younger folks now.) A judge in Florida can grant a divorce at any time more than 20 days after the divorce is filed and wait to decide the other issues in the case (alimony, division of assets and liabilities, child custody and support) later.
If you have general questions on the subject of no-fault divorce, please post them and I will respond as I am able. Please don’t ask questions about child custody, alimony, etc. now. I will present myTakes on those subjects in the near future and will respond to those questions when it will be more germane to the discussion.