Family Law: Dissolution of Marriage
The area of Family Law is a wide area of legal practice. It can include many topics, such as adoptions, alimony, annulments, divorce and many other sub topics. Without a question, out of all of the topics in Family Law, the topic of divorce, or dissolution of marriage, is the most recognizable. Obtaining a divorce can be an emotional, physical, costly, and legal nightmare for some. Going through a divorce may be a viable option for a couple that can no longer coexist as a single unit. Florida, like many states in the country, is a no fault state. No fault means that one spouse can start the divorce process merely because he or she states there are irreconcilable differences. This means only one party needs to want the divorce for the process to begin. When it comes to getting a divorce there are two ways it can be obtained by residents in the State of Florida: pro se and/or hiring an attorney.
The term pro se means advocating on one's own behalf before a court of law. Essentially, the person asking for the divorce, the petitioner, will ask the court for a divorce by filing several legal documents. The other party, the respondent, will have a time limit in which he or she has an opportunity to respond. This is an established time limit indicated in the Florida Statutes, and this time limit is important to know because the petitioner is asking the court to do certain things (ie: division of property, alimony, etc) and the court has the power to grant those requests if the respondent does not respond in a timely manner. Depending on the county in the State of Florida, a pro se litigant may come before a judge or general magistrate and depending on the county there may or may not be a special division in the Family Courts that presides over pro se divorces.
For many individuals this is a stressful process and they may want to hire an attorney to assist them in the process. Many attorneys practice family law but you have to make sure the attorney you select can advocate for your needs. The hiring of a divorce attorney is important because like many legal issues that come up in the arena of law, you should select an attorney that is competent, understands your needs, and who you feel comfortable with sharing details of your life. Just like when you are purchasing a home, not every home is suitable for you. You have to make sure your attorney is one that fits you, understands your position, and will advocate for a suitable outcome.
Generally, people do not get married with the intention of getting a divorce. When it comes to getting a divorce there are many emotions involved and sometimes those emotions cloud the judgment of rational people. Whether you choose to represent yourself in a divorce or hire an attorney, make sure you do what is best for you and your family.
*Published in the July 2011 Edition of the Florida Caribbean Sun Newspaper.