sunrise over a lake

Divorce

The end of a marriage is painful, challenging, and full of questions—but it’s also an opportunity for personal growth and change. While you likely did not come to this decision without plenty of introspection and tears, now that you’ve decided to move forward, it’s important to do so in a thoughtful and dignified way that protects your rights.

That is how Darla K. Snead approaches every single divorce case she handles. She understands the complicated and painful emotions at play, and she knows that getting through this time is much easier with the right support. No matter what the circumstances of your divorce are or what your priorities are as you leave your marriage, she’ll work tirelessly to help you create the fresh new start you deserve. To discuss your case with a top divorce lawyer in Lakeland, contact Darla K. Snead, P.L. Accepting cases in Polk, Hardee, Highlands, and Hillsborough Counties.

Types of Divorce in Florida

As you begin the process of filing for divorce, you will need to think about which type of dissolution is most suitable for your situation. There are three options to consider:

  • Simplified dissolution. Choosing a simplified dissolution saves time and often costs less. However, you must meet specific requirements to file. The couple must have no minor children, the wife must not be pregnant when the divorce case is filed, and the parties must submit financial affidavits and draft a property settlement agreement. Neither party can seek alimony and both parties must attend the final hearing. After attending the final divorce hearing, the couple is officially divorced.
  • Uncontested divorce. In many cases, both parties agree that the marriage should end and they are able to reach an agreement between themselves. If the couple is able to agree upon allocation of debt, division of assets, alimony, and all issues regarding their minor children, an Attorney can compile this information into a marital settlement agreement.  The parties will also be required to file a financial affidavit.  The Attorney will also prepare a parenting plan regarding the children, and prepare child support guidelines.  The party filing, the Petitioner, is required to attend the final divorce hearing.  The Attorney will prepare the Final Judgment granting the dissolution of marriage based upon the parties’ agreement, which the Judge will typically sign at the hearing.
  • Contested divorce. A contested divorce is where a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed and the other party is served with the divorce papers. The spouse will then have twenty days to file an answer or response to the Petition. In these situations, the parties cannot come to a mutual agreement on one or more aspects of the divorce at the beginning of the case. This does not mean that it has to be a nasty fight like the legal dramas you see on television or the movies. Although some cases proceed to trial and are decided by a Judge, most are not. All contested cases are required to go through mediation. A mediator is a neutral third party who acts as a facilitator and attempts to help the parties come to an agreement. A mediator can not give the parties legal advice or advocate for one party. That is why it is important to have an experienced attorney by your side, so you do not give up important legal rights and to ensure that you are treated fairly. If a case does not settle at mediation, the case will proceed toward trial, which will then be heard by a Judge. The judge then decides all of the issues in the divorce.

You may think that a contested divorce trial is your only option if you have a spouse who is unwilling to compromise. However, this is a very risky choice, as it involves putting every major decision related to your divorce in the hands of a judge. Before you get to that point—and preferably as soon as possible—hire an experienced divorce attorney in Lakeland, FL. When both sides have their own legal representation, it is generally easier to reach an agreement that does not put your future in a judge’s control.

Plan Ahead for Difficult Conversations

Divorce does not have to be about screaming matches and passive-aggressive snipes, but it will be emotionally challenging and mentally tiring. When you meet with your divorce lawyer, being honest about what you want from the divorce and what you expect from your ex-partner will make it much easier to plan for the journey ahead. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, you may find that asset division is the hardest issue to discuss without fighting. For couples with minor children, issues of custody/timesharing and child support are among the most explosive. Keep reading to learn more about the issues that commonly arise during divorce negotiations.

Asset and Debt Division

The process of dividing assets is complex; it’s generally not as easy as giving each spouse half of everything accumulated in the marriage. Generally, Florida judges begin by assuming that each party deserves half of all accumulated assets. From there, they adjust to account for each party’s earning abilities, income, contributions made in the marriage, and future employment prospects, among other considerations. By considering these factors, the judge attempts to distribute assets in an equitable manner.

This may mean that the person who earned the most money during the marriage does not actually keep most of the money. Contributions to a marriage aren’t simply financial or material in nature. The court also considers a spouse’s homemaking and childrearing contributions.

If debt was accumulated during the marriage, this must also be divided in a fair manner. Again, the judge will weigh each party’s income, job prospects, and other factors. Secured debt is often influenced by who keeps the asset tied to the debt. If one party stays in the marital home, they will also be required to pay the debt on the home, this may require that person to refinance the home and obtain a mortgage in only that person’s name. A Judge can also order that the home be sold and the proceeds split between the parties.

Timesharing and Child Support

If you have minor children, timesharing is probably one of your top priorities when you consult with a top family lawyer in Lakeland. The thought of losing time with your children may put you into fight-or-flight mode, which can aggravate already strained relations with your ex-partner. It’s important to realize that you both want what is best for your children and that you can work together to accomplish it. Of course, we know that this isn’t always the case. There will always be individuals who are more focused on hurting their soon-to-be-ex-spouse than making decisions that protect their children. Regardless of how your ex-partner approaches these issues, we will be on your side to fight for what you and your children deserve.

As a general rule, the court begins with the assumption that both parents should be very involved in raising the children.  Children fare well when they get meaningful periods of time with each parent, rather than spending most or all of their time with one. From this starting point, the judge will make adjustments to account for factors like:

  • Work schedules and other obligations
  • Who currently acts as the child’s primary caretaker and how the child will adjust to any changes in schedule
  • Each parent’s wishes and preferences
  • Each parent’s ability to provide care and meet their child’s various needs
  • Each parent’s support system and living conditions

Timesharing influences child support decisions. Child support is provided for the benefit of the child, and the child is entitled to that money regardless of their parents’ choices. Child support is awarded based on how a child’s time is split, how much each party earns, any unusual expenses required for the child’s care, and each parent’s ability to work.

Choosing a Lakeland Divorce Attorney

Looking at the road ahead of you, you undoubtedly have questions, concerns, and worries. Choosing a top divorce lawyer in Lakeland is one way to make this process as easy as possible, allowing you to begin the hard emotional work of healing and planning for the next stage of your life.

Many people wonder if they truly need a divorce attorney, especially if their ex-partner agrees with them on important topics like custody and division of assets. Even if the divorce is amicable, it is highly recommended that both parties have their own representation. This ensures that neither party unintentionally loses assets or takes on debt they don’t want, and it also ensures that neither party gives away more parenting time than intended. If you are trying to give up more during the divorce process just to keep the peace with an ex-partner, you should discuss your needs with an attorney and find a solution that doesn’t involve hindering your future.

Your attorney will also help you with the massive pile of paperwork that comes with any divorce. Filling out paperwork accurately and promptly is essential since missing deadlines or providing inaccurate information can cause your case to get thrown out, costing you more when you are forced to refile. Remember, during the divorce process, you still have to work, take care of children, and meet other obligations. Working with an attorney takes a substantial amount of divorce stress off of your shoulders.

Let Darla K. Snead Handle Your Divorce Needs

Darla K. Snead brings empathy and a careful hand to every case she takes on as a divorce attorney. She’ll truly take the time needed to listen to your concerns and goals, then work with you to develop a plan that addresses these needs. Whether you have an uncomplicated and amicable divorce that you simply want to go as quickly as possible or a contested divorce that is likely to take months to resolve, turn to Darla K. Snead. With more than 23 years of experience as a lawyer, she has seen every type of divorce you can imagine. Her broad body of experience puts her in a position to negotiate these matters expertly and preserve the co-parenting relationship between you and your ex-partner. If you’re ready to get started, call our office or get in touch online. We look forward to standing with you during this challenging time.

Request a Consultation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.