Uniquely Qualified Sarasota Divorce Attorney
Board-certified family law litigator focuses on positive results
If you’ve decided to dissolve your marriage in Sarasota, Sessums Law Group, P.A. can provide the high-quality legal representation you need through every step of the process. Led by preeminent family law attorney Mark Sessums, our legal team offers personalized service and guidance tailored to your specific needs and circumstances. Mark Sessums is one of only four attorneys in Florida whom the Florida Board of Legal Specialization and Education has certified in both Civil Trial Law and Marital and Family Law. His knowledge and experience can help you resolve even the most complex divorce issues in a timely and cost-effective manner.
What you need to know about Florida divorce law
There are certain basic requirements for filing for divorce in Sarasota. Either spouse must have been a resident of Florida for at least the last six months. To file in the circuit court of Sarasota County, either you or your spouse must be a county resident.
Florida recognizes only two legal grounds for divorce:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- One spouse has suffered from a mental incapacity that was determined at least three years ago
If one spouse alleges the marriage is irretrievably broken, but the other disagrees, AND they have a minor child, the court can do one of three things:
- Order marriage counseling
- Put the divorce proceedings off for a reasonable time, such as three months
- Take other action deemed to be in the best interests of the parties and the child(ren)
Family law courts decide child custody matters based on the best interests of the child, and there is a presumption in the law that frequent and continuing contact with both parents is in the child’s best interests. Florida uses an Income Shares Model to determine basic child support, and the court may order a parent to pay for health insurance for the child.
A Sarasota court can order alimony for a dependent spouse to bridge the gap until the spouse becomes self-supporting, to allow a spouse time to get job training, to maintain a spouse for a certain duration, or, in cases where a spouse cannot be expected to become self-supporting, to provide permanent support.
Florida is an equitable distribution state for marital property. This means the court orders assets and debts to be divided in a manner that is fair, though not necessarily equal.
A brief description of the divorce process in Sarasota
To get your divorce started, you should consult an attorney who can advise you on filing and draft your Complaint. The Complaint is your request that the court dissolve your marriage, and it states how you would like ancillary issues — alimony, child custody or visitation, child support, and division of property — decided. After that consultation, the process proceeds as follows:
- Filing — The Petitioner files the Complaint and other court papers. There are fees to do so. The Petitioner must arrange for a neutral person to serve a Summons and the Complaint to the other spouse.
- Default — The Respondent spouse has 20 days to file an Answer. If the spouse is unavailable, or does not plan to contest any part of the Complaint, he or she may default by declining to file an Answer. The court will then grant an uncontested divorce along the terms specified in the Complaint.
- Answer — If the Respondent files an Answer, this usually means there are issues the spouses must resolve through negotiation or mediation.
- Marital settlement agreement — The parties can enter into traditional negotiations or mediation to try to resolve their ancillary issues. If successful, they create a marital settlement agreement covering every issue of their divorce. The parties present the final, signed agreement to the court for approval. If the court approves, the settlement becomes the basis for the divorce decree. This is considered an uncontested divorce.
- Trial — If the parties cannot resolve one or more of their divorce issues, these issues are scheduled for trial. There is a period of discovery, where parties make demands of each other for answers to interrogatories and documents, witnesses are deposed, and often court-appointed psychologists or social workers interview the children.
Floridians can achieve an uncontested divorce in as little as 20 days after filing the Petition. However, when a contested divorce goes to trial, the process can last many months up to a couple of years before the court can issue a final decree.
Contact a divorce lawyer in Sarasota
Sessums Law Group, P.A. represents Sarasota clients in uncontested and contested divorces. Please call 813-435-5058 or contact us online to schedule an appointment at our Main Street office. We also have locations in Lakeland, Sebring and Tampa.