There are different areas of the divorce process that can be affected by specific dates regarding your relationship with your spouse. The specifics of these dates can be a significant aspect of your divorce and therefore, it is imperative to ensure these dates are accurately determined. When discussing your case with your divorce Attorney, they will ask questions surrounding these necessary and significant dates. If you are unsure of these dates, you may provide approximate details however, it will be important to follow up with your attorney regarding the exact dates of the information requested.
There are two very significant dates needed in every divorce proceeding in order to properly determine an equitable alimony award. The first date that will always be requested from either party entering a divorce proceeding is when the couple became legally married. This date becomes the foundation for the tolling or calculating of time for the duration of the marriage. The second date that is crucial to a divorce proceeding is the date the initial Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed. This date is used to determine the proper length of the marriage.
Although in everyday life, the length of a relationship can be measured by the date a couple began dating, living together, or any other significant date of their choosing up to the present day; this is not the case in a divorce proceeding. A marriage duration, as judged by the Florida courts, is “the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage." Fla. Stat. § 61.08(4). Therefore, even if you and your spouse were in a relationship, cohabitated, or even had children, before you became a married couple, the court may not consider that time period in the calculation to determine the length of the marriage.
The duration of marriage is a prevalent aspect when determining alimony awards. Florida recognizes a rebuttable presumption of three different terms of marriages. Short term marriages are ones that are less than seven years; moderate term marriages are between seven and seventeen years; and long term marriages are greater than seventeen years. Short term marriages are provided with the largest burden of proof in order to substantiate an alimony award; with moderate term marriages having a lesser burden; and long term marriages being provided with a great deal of leeway in alimony determinations.
Therefore, if you are on the cusp of a defined marital term recognized by Florida, it is important to understand the repercussions of filing too soon or filing too late based upon your interests. For instance, if you have been married for 16 years and 8 months, and are likely to be held responsible for alimony, it may be financially significant to file as quickly as possible, as to ensure you do not fall within the long term marital presumption making the burden of proof more difficult on the recipient party. In contrast, if you are likely entitled to an alimony award in the same term marriage, you may wish to place a hold on filing your divorce petition until you reach the 17 year mark.
Although certain dates may seem insignificant, there are requirements under Florida Statute that must be adhered to and evidence of specific dates will aid your attorney argue certain claims in your case and protect your rights during the divorce process.
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