February 7

I want a divorce, but I have no idea where my ex is.

missing spouse divorceOne of the many freedoms we enjoy in America is the freedom to decide when to end a marriage. Divorce is already an emotional and complicated procedure, however, so when one spouse chooses to hide from the process, a few additional steps must be taken to complete the divorce, but divorce is possible, nonetheless.

In Florida, a few actions must be taken to prove to the court that all possibilities for locating an absentee spouse were taken before filing for divorce.

Those actions include:

  • Service by Publication (or Constructive Notice)
  • Proving Diligent Search (Due Diligence)
  • Obtaining Default Judgment (Final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage)

While Service by Publication may sound as simple as posting a notice in the newspaper and waiting the required amount of time to fulfill Florida’s legal requirement, and in turn, find favor with the Court, many more aspects are involved.

First, the Court requires you to prove that you took every possible, reasonable measure for locating our missing spouse. This proof is called Due Diligence.

Due Diligence requires that you contact your missing spouse’s employer, known associates, and family members, then follow up on any information received. You may also be required to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain your missing spouse’s last known address information; checking for a possible death certificate; monitoring credit or banking information that may provide information about their whereabouts, searching for tax information, or even hiring a private investigator.

Proving to the Court that you took all of the above steps and were still unable to locate your spouse requires that you provide the court with proof and an outline of the steps you took and their results. An affidavit is required in addition to your evidence to show every measure was made with no consequence.

At this point, you’ll contact a reputable newspaper and run a legally written ad for four consecutive weeks, order to give your spouse time to see the ad and respond. If you receive no response within 28 days, you’ll then ask the court for a Default Judgment for Final Dissolution of Marriage and a hearing to finalize your divorce process.

While the methods above are one avenue for obtaining a simple divorce, it should be used as a last resort, as it leaves no room to address issues like Child Time Sharing or Division of Marital Assets or Debts.

If you are entirely unable to locate your spouse and believe that Divorce by Publication is the best course of action to take in your situation, it is always best to contact an experienced, professional attorney to assist you in your case.

October 4

Things to Complete Before Finalizing Divorce

Divorce is never an easy decision to make. It can typically involve many different factors and even people. There are ways to make the finalization of divorce easier by creating a checklist for yourself before taking it to the serious point of divorce. Knowing how to handle a divorce before papers are signed can be beneficial to both parties and, at the very least, give you peace of mind that things are in the right order. Here you will find some of the things to add to your checklist before finalization, ensuring you won't have to deal with any potholes along the way.

  • Finances are a big part of a divorce. Many married couples share joint accounts and may have for many years. Keep track of what's in the accounts before bringing divorce papers into play. If possible, begin the separation of what's yours into a new account on your own. In the unfortunate case of a soon to be ex-spouse draining a joint account when they get informed of the impending divorce, you will be safe from potential over-spending that you're unaware of.
  • On the same page, with separating your accounts, it's best to close joint credit accounts. Try to have them paid off before divorce proceedings begin as it can be a bit more difficult after the fact. You can request the accounts to be frozen, but this won't get rid of a balance.
  • Do your homework on who's representing you! A divorce attorney may not always be needed if both parties remain civil and find an agreement amongst each other, but that is not always the case. If it's a particularly messy divorce (or has the potential to be), a divorce lawyer should be at the top of your checklist. Don't go with the first lawyer you meet with. Try to interview with 3-5 lawyers who have at least 5-10 years of experience in family law.
  • What will your living situation be after the divorce is finalized? Do you think you and your soon-to-be ex-partner will still live civilly together, or is someone moving out? If it's the latter, both parties will now be taking on rent/mortgage payments on their own. This can be a bit more difficult when children and owned property are involved. It's recommended to remain living with the partner you are divorcing until all court proceedings are done, and the divorce is officially final.
  • One of the most important things to do before finalizing a divorce is to keep your cool and lay low. A divorce is a very emotional time for everyone involved, and acting out in anger and frustration will only make things harder for you. As for laying low, it's a good idea to keep the dating to a minimum until the divorce is said and done. This looks better on you if you remain focused on the goal of working on your family if there are children, and if there are no children, it's a good time for you to reflect on yourself and work on that.

There are quite a few other things to make sure you go over before divorce is finalized, but these are some of the top things that should be covered before taking that last step. It's an unfortunate time, and every situation is different, but it makes it a bit easier if you're prepared beforehand.



August 24

A Few Do's and Don'ts for New Step Parents

Even in the most seemingly ideal situations, the successful blending of families is often a daunting task. As a new step-parent, it’s natural to want to instantly bond with your step children and create a new family, but what approach is in the actual best interest of the children? Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind as a new step parent:

Don’t expect a magic flip to be switched on the instant you marry. Adapting to a new situation takes time for anyone, especially children who may still be reeling from their biological parents’ divorce.

Do take things slow and allow the dynamic to develop naturally. Remember, this is their world of security and familiarity, and you are new. Expect some rough patches and know that love will develop over time.

Don’t discuss disagreements with your spouse within earshot of the children. Children are curious and likely to blame themselves for most issues.

Do set aside time to discuss troublesome issues privately with your spouse. If it is an issue that involves the children, choose a time to calmly discuss the issue as a family. This prevents children from playing one parent or step parent against the other and shows a united front. Discuss expectations and rules about each member of the family’s responsibilities in a respectful, cooperative manner.

Don’t attempt to replace a parent. No matter what your feelings toward the former spouse may be, trying to replace them leads to strong feelings of resentment.

Do be a role model, source of support, encourager and mentor. Children deserve a listening and caring ear. It is never okay to disparage or bad-mouth a biological parent. When children hear one of their parents is  “bad," they believe “part of me is bad.” Keep it positive!



July 13

How They Decide Who Gets the Family Pet in a Divorce in Florida

pets and divorceSo, you are going through a divorce. You and your former spouse have agreed on how to divide your personal property. You decide on what becomes of the home, cars, and bank accounts. But who gets the family dog, cat, or other pets?

You may be surprised by the answer.

The issue of pets in a divorce is fever officially addressed in divorce court. Our "furry family members" are treated as property. They are given a monetary value and are subjected to the laws of equitable distribution.

Much like all other personal property, if you can prove that your pet is your separate (non-marital) property - meaning you acquired the pet before you were married - you have a solid case for keeping your pet. However, it is best to have physical proof that your pet was acquired premaritally.

Examples of tangible proof of ownership include:

  • A copy of your bill of sale
  • A bill dated before marriage that preferably refers to your pet by name or breed
  • Receipts for pet supplies or pet food

These would substantiate your claim that you owned the pet before your marriage.
If your pet was given only to you as a gift by a person other than your spouse, the case could be made that your pet should stay with you. However, there is some difficulty in proving the receipt of the gift.

Given the nature of Florida law, the issue of pet ownership is best resolved outside of the courtroom. Ask yourself, while looking forward to your life after divorce, if you want the responsibility of owning a pet. Try to agree with your former spouse to determine who is best equipped to care for your animal. Consider your resources, daily schedule, and living arrangements. If minor children are involved, it is best to consider what role your furry family member plays in their lives.

For a consultation on this or other Family and Divorce Law matters, contact Cox Law Firm, PA.

June 1

The Effects of Quarantine and Marriage

covid divorceThe historical Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down and forced many of us to live every moment of our lives in our homes. This has created an uncharted territory, stirring up new anxiety for those not used to a more quiet life with less social interaction other than family members. This undoubtedly has created a strain on many marriages, for couples not used to spending 24/7 in each other's company. Some experts have predicted a rise in divorces before the end of the year.

At first, the thought of working from home sounded like an ideal vacation; get up whenever you like, wear your pajamas all day, pet your cat at your desk. For many, over the past few weeks, the "staycation" quickly faded into a weird scene from the movie "Ground Hog's Day." Every day feels like the last with no escape in sight. If your spouse is getting on your nerves, you are not alone.

In most families, mom and dad get up, kiss each other goodbye, and go off to their separate lives. They converge in the evening and enjoy the quality time together and cherish each other's company. Now with the stay at home orders still in place, married couples are starting to get on each other's last nerves. They are not used to having their partner around every second of the day. Once happy marriages are beginning to see a strain. Marriages on the rocks have solidified the notion that divorce is the only option to hold on to a little sanity.

When you add cabin fever to financial stress with your spouse crunching Cheetos in your ear, things can seem a little overwhelming. However, there are things you can do to help minimize getting on each other's nerves. Try as much as possible to create your own spaces, especially when it comes to working and downtime. Pretend you are still getting up and going to work, you go to your part of the house, and your spouse goes to theirs. Take solo walks and find a hobby that can be done alone. In the evening, the two of you can come together for dinner and a relaxing Netflix flick.

While making sure you have your own space necessary, it is also a good idea to make use of this time doing the things you always wanted to do with your partner but never seem to have the time. Dance in the living room, play board games with the kids and plan a romantic candlelit dinner under the stars on your patio. This could be a perfect time to reconnect with the person you fell in love with.

The good thing to remember is that the stay at home orders are just temporary. Our lives will return to normal, or as normal as they can get under the circumstances. Kids will hopefully go back to school at the end of Summer, and you and your spouse will get back to a routine of your own.