SHOULD I USE FREE FLORIDA FAMILY LAW AND DIVORCE  FORMS?

The Florida State Court System‘s website publishes free Florida Supreme Court approved forms with instructions on its website.  All of the forms that you need to file a family law case or divorce are present on the Florida State Court System website. With all of the free forms, I am often asked the question: should I handle my case myself utilizing the family law forms? My answer depends on the circumstances.

Free Forms Are Better for Simple Cases.

If you and your spouse have been married a short time with no assets, debts and children, you’re probably alright utilizing the simplified dissolution of marriage form. When considering whether or not to use the free Florida Supreme Court approved forms ask yourself: do I have marital assets or debts I’m concerned with, or more importantly, children? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself will I need to go back to court if the goals of the divorce settlement are not accomplished? If you answered yes to both questions, then you should hire a lawyer to handle your divorce.

How do the Free Forms Work for Divorcing Spouses with Assets and Debts?

If you and your spouse have property, debts and assets that you need to divide, I do not recommend utilizing the free forms without assistance of an attorney.  A common problem with the Florida Supreme Court approved free forms is the lack of language necessary to transfer certain types of assets. Let’s say, by way of example, a divorcing couple wants to divide a military pension earned during a long term marriage.

Here is the language to divide the hypothetical military pension in the free Florida Marital Settlement Agreement form:

  1. Wife shall receive as her own and Husband shall have no further rights or responsibilities regarding these assets:

ASSETS: DESCRIPTION OF ITEM(S) WIFE SHALL RECEIVE

 Please describe each item as clearly as possible. You do not need to list account numbers Where applicable, include whether the name on any title/deed/account described below is wife’s, husband’s or both.

 

Current Fair Market Value

 

 Retirement plans (Profit Sharing, Pension, IRA, 401(k)s, etc.)  

This language is insufficient to divide a military pension. Here is an example of attorney drafted military pension division language: *

The Wife is awarded 37.25% of the Husband’s military retried pay. The Husband shall be responsible for paying the Wife her pro-rata share until she receives payments directly from DFAS.  The Husband shall not take any action to cause his retirement benefits to be reduced, diminished, terminated, merged with another retirement benefit, etc. with the exception of a service connected disability.  Should the Husband take any action, which would otherwise reduce or eliminate the Wife’s awards herein, the Court specifically reserves jurisdiction to establish spousal support in an amount the retirement is reduced with the exception of any amount associated with a service connected disability.  In this event, the spousal support would not terminate upon the Wife’s remarriage with the exception of any reduction in Wife’s benefit associated with a service connected disability sustained by Husband. 

 The Court specifically reserves jurisdiction for the entry of a QDRO, COAP, or similar order, for the awards herein and to amend or correct any of the terms of this final judgment to effectuate the awards herein, especially retirement and pension awards and survivor benefits.  The Wife is responsible for the cost associated with the entry of any additional order necessary to effectuate this provision.   

As you can see, the type of language necessary to transfer a military pension is much more complex than the language present in the free Marital Settlement Agreement.

An Attorney Saves Time

Even if you have a relatively simple divorce, learning which forms to utilize, and how to complete the forms, can be a time consuming and stressful endeavor.  An attorney will streamline the process by completing your divorce forms quickly and correctly.

Contact The Taylor Law Office

If you have questions about your divorce or  family law case, please contact us on the Contact Page above or call 904-339-5298.  Your first consultation is free

The sample language above is provided for illustration purposes only. Each situation is different. It is imperative that you consult with an attorney before transferring a military pension. There are numerous other requirements not listed in this blog post.   

 

GOVERNOR SCOTT VETOES ALIMONY REFORM  

Floirida Alimony Reform Vetoed

Governor Scott vetoed Senate Bill 718 a/k/a the “alimony reform bill. ”

Governor Scott’s Letter Explaining His Veto Decision

Governor Scott’s cited the retroactive application of the bill because it “tampers with settled economic expectation” of the parties. Governor Scott also stated that “[a]limony has long been a key component of our domestic relations law. It represents an important remedy for our judiciary to use in providing support to families as they adjust to changes in life circumstances.” Please click on the following link to read Governor Scott’s letter.

Florida Alimony Reform’s Reaction

The leading Florida alimony reform group,  Florida Alimony Reform (“FAR”), was disappointed stating:

GOVERNOR SCOTT PUTS HALT TO ALIMONY REFORM and Vetoes the Alimony Reform Bill SB718.  It is an understatement to say we are EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED!”

Alimony Reform Legislation Will Likely Be Back Next Year

Considering the wide support for alimony reform in the Legislature, another reform bill will likely be back next year. FAR is a very proactive organization with allies in the Florida Legislature.  I doubt they will wait long before lobbying for a new bill for next year’s legislative session.

The problem with this year’s bill, in my opinion, was that it was too broad. As Governor Scott indicated, it had retroactive application that could disrupt settled economic expectations.   The bill also made changes to child time-sharing (a/k/a custody) laws and changes to short term alimony that were problematic. The bill should have focused on permanent alimony.

Contact The Taylor Law Office

If you have questions about alimony in the Jacksonville, Florida area, please contact us at 904-339-5298 or through this website. Your first consultation is free.