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When You Thought You Had Agreed To Everything

Marriage is a legal contract between two parties in Florida. Divorce, therefore, requires a Florida court order for both parties to break the contract. Many couples filing for divorce knew it was coming months or even years before filing the paperwork to start the process. Often, the divorce starts out amicably, with both parties sitting down together to work out the details about who keeps the house, custody and parenting time.

This blog discusses what happens when the issues aren't quite as settled as the spouses hoped, after they discuss things with their lawyers.

Why isn't a verbal agreement enough?

When discussing property, custody and even spousal support issues over coffee at the dining room table, lots of things get said and agreed to. What seems like a good, common-sense solution, though, may not always be acceptable by the courts. In Florida, family law judges must review the proposed settlement agreement and decide (adjudicate) whether the terms of the settlement protects the rights and interests of both parties. If it appears that one spouse is simply "giving it all away" just to get the divorce over with, the courts may not allow it even if both parties have verbally agreed to accept the terms and conditions.

Do lawyers make it worse?

It seems we all know someone who claims their divorce disputes issues were all settled...until the lawyers got involved. While it may be true that some attorneys prefer to take their clients' cases to trial to protect their rights, it is certainly not the norm in Florida. Most lawyers will warn their clients against fighting for every piece of furniture and silverware.

If the lawyers for the respective spouses disagree with the proposed settlement their client brings to them, it is generally because they know from experience that the judge will not agree to the terms, or the lawyers know that the settlement may sound fair now, but will cause problems in future years.

If you are considering divorce, understand that nothing said between you and your spouse now will definitely be part of the final decree - until a judge decides on it. Before you make promises, make sure you know what the courts expect. It makes sense to hire an experienced lawyer who will help you work through the process efficiently and amicably as possible.

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