By Orlando Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Many of the clients who consider hiring me to represent them in a divorce harbor considerable animosity towards their spouses. This is understandable, given the circumstances. However, this causes them to have difficulty articulating what they want in a future divorce judgment. Instead, they spend the majority of the initial consultation lamenting all of the horrible things that their spouses had done to them and their ill will clouds their judgment. As many family law attorneys find themselves doing, I give them as much emotional counseling as I do legal advice.
Sometimes they ask me if I could speak to a friend or relative for a few minutes and I agree to it. I usually expect, perhaps naively, to hear a different perspective. However, the friend or relative usually repeats all of the dastardly things done to my prospective client, and ask how I could make life difficult for his or her spouse in the divorce. Even though neither the prospective client or the friend or relatively wanted to hear it, I tell both of them that what their complaints would be irrelevant in her divorce.
Divorces in Florida are not designed to be morality plays. Unless the time-sharing of children is at stake a spouse’s questionable behavior seldom matters. Even when children are involved, a parent’s “moral fitness” represents only one factor among many that a judge must consider when establishing a time-sharing schedule.
Of course, divorces involve two people that shared strong feelings towards each other. When a potential divorce client meets me for the first time, their feelings are still raw, and their wounds are fresh and I expect a certain amount of emotion. But I would be doing a disservice to my clients if I did not explain that, in the Florida, the legal divorce process is not a place to establish guilt. Attempting to do so could damage their case for a fair distribution of assets, alimony, child support or child custody.
If you are considering a divorce, it is important to understand that Florida is a “no-fault” state How a family law judge divides the marital assets and debts or whether or not alimony is awarded is rarely affected by a spouse’s conduct during the marriage. Assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage are almost always split 50/50. With alimony, the length of the marriage, and the disparity of income between the spouses mainly determine how much, if any of it is awarded. Which spouse was more responsible with money, who was the harder worker, and which spouse was more faithful are all immaterial.
In addition, injecting inflammatory language in the divorce petition simply for the purpose of “putting it on the record” usually backfires, regardless of the merits of the accusation. Your spouse will naturally become even more infuriated, thus damaging the chances of a settlement at mediation and requiring a decision by a judge. Agreeing on a settlement is less risky than leaving it to a judge to make the decision and it costs much less in legal fees. An experienced family law attorney will only include these type of allegations in very specific situations when they can make a difference in the outcome.
If you are considering a divorce and want a knowledgeable and objective advice on what to do, I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001, and schedule a twenty-minute free initial consultation with me. I have been representing clients exclusively in divorces and other family law cases since 2005 and practicing as a family law attorney in the Orlando area since 2011. I look forward to representing you.