Divorce is a reasonably overwhelming process, but a simple and relevant acronym, known as P.E.A.C.E., can help you understand the categories of steps involved in a dissolution of marriage and the order in which these important steps should be addressed.
P is for Parenting. When there are children incident to a divorce, this should be the first issue the parties and their counsel should address. Parenting includes shared parenting issues and how time-sharing is allocated between the parties. Section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes is the primary statute in Chapter 61 that addresses parenting issues. This is, often, the most contested and most important issue in a divorce, so it is wise to delve right into the parenting issues and seek to have those resolved first before moving onto the financials. In Florida, the goal is to come to a Parenting Plan and avoid court involvement when it is possible to do so. And when it is not, being ready to look out for the true best interest of your children.
E is for Equitable Distribution. Section 61.075 of the Florida Statutes governs equitable distribution. In particular, this statute provides that the Court is required to identify, characterize, and then distribute the parties’ marital assets and liabilities before the Court considers whether a party is entitled to alimony. See Section 61.075(9), Florida Statues (2012). The rationale behind the requirement that equitable distribution should come before alimony is tied to the “need” factor in determining an appropriate alimony award, if any. If a party receives income producing assets from his or her portion of the equitable distribution, then he or she may not have the “need” for alimony. This is why the law requires equitable distribution to come first. It is often very hard for parties to realize they they have to “share” equitably in all martial assets, but it is the law.
A is for Alimony. Alimony is the next factor in the divorce process, and similar to children issues, alimony is often the most contested matter in a divorce. Section 61.08 of the Florida Statues governs alimony. This statute sets forth all of the factors the Court is required to consider in making an award of alimony. In sum, the factors set forth in the alimony statute come down to “need” and “ability to pay.” In other words, does one party have a need for alimony and does the other party have an ability to meet that need. There are various kinds: bridge the gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent periodic alimony. In Florida, there is no current formula for alimony, like there is for child support.
C is for Child Support. Section 61.30 of the Florida Statues governs child support. This statue sets forth the guidelines for calculating child support, which is based, in part, on the parties’ respective net incomes, their respective overnight time-sharing with the child or children involved in the divorce, and credits for child care and health insurance payments. Child support is dealt with after alimony, because alimony is considered income for purposes of calculating child support. Once alimony is established, this amount, in addition to any other includable income, is plugged into the child support formula, which calculates the amount of child support.
E is for Everything Else. This last category is the customary catch-all. This can include a variety of issues in a dissolution of marriage depending up the facts and circumstances of a particular case, including, but not limited to, the entitlement and amount of attorneys’ fees to be paid in a divorce, the filing of joint versus separate tax returns and the implications of same, life insurance to secure child support and/or alimony, or other miscellaneous matters that are not covered under the first four (4) letters in the acronym.
The acronym and descriptions set forth below just touch on the relevant subjects involved in a dissolution of marriage. For more specific and important considerations involving these topic areas, we encourage you to review our prior blog submissions [insert link to blog table of contents] in addition to contacting an attorney who specializes in the area of Family Law. Hopefully, this acronym will be a helpful tool to ease the complexities involved in a divorce and to help you reach a level of P.E.A.C.E. now and in the future. Divorce affects every area of ones life and that is something we recognize and strive to help our clients with each day.