Trusted Divorce Representation for LGBT Couples
Members of the LGBT community in Florida won the right to marry on January 6, 2015 after a 2008 ban on same-sex marriage was lifted and ruled unconstitutional. The landmark ruling resulted in same-sex couples being afforded the same rights, benefits, and protections as married heterosexual couples.
Unfortunately, as with any marriage, LGBT couples can encounter challenges that lead to divorce. When this happens, it’s important to retain an experienced same-sex divorce attorney to ensure your rights and interests are fully protected.
Serving the Needs of LGBT Families in Tampa and Hillsborough County
If you identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender, and are considering dissolving your marriage, you’ve come to the right place. Lasley Family Law proudly represents LGBT individuals with all aspects of their divorce in Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County.
The firm’s founder and lead same-sex divorce attorney Mindi Lasley has extensive experience negotiating and litigating LGBT divorce cases and is well-versed in all the latest laws pertaining to same-sex marriage and divorce. She understands the sensitive nature and unique legal challenges surrounding same-sex family law issues and is committed to helping you find a solution that meets your needs.
Providing Thoughtful Advice and Tenacious Advocacy During the Divorce Process
Ms. Lasley will take the time to understand your unique situation, explain your rights and legal options, and work with you to obtain the best possible outcome. As your Tampa LGBT divorce lawyer, she will strive to accomplish your objectives through collaboration, negotiation, mediation, and creative thinking. However, if necessary, she will be ready to fiercely fight for you in court.
Call (813) 873-9047 today and schedule a free consultation with same-sex divorce lawyer Mindi Lasley.
Do any of the following apply to you? We can help.
Comprehensive Legal Services for Same-Sex Divorce
While it’s true that same-sex couples are treated the same as everyone else under Florida’s divorce laws, there are still challenges that are unique to same-sex marriages. Lasley Family Law can help guide you through the divorce proceedings and protect your rights every step of the way. We provide expert legal counsel for LGBTQ couples in the areas of:
- Contested and uncontested divorce
- Distribution of marital assets and debts
- Spousal support/alimony
- Child support
- Child custody and time-sharing
- Parenting plans
- Post divorce enforcement and modification of existing court orders
- Protective orders for domestic violence victims
Can I Get Divorced in Florida if I Got Married in Another State?
Prior to Florida’s legalization of same-sex marriage, many couples chose to obtain marriage licenses in other states.
- You were married in another state and wish to obtain a same-sex divorce in Florida
- You were married in Florida and wish to receive a divorce or annulment in the state
- You are a resident of Florida and were served divorce papers
- You were married in Florida or another state and need help resolving a family-law matter related to divorce.
If this applies to you, you can still pursue a divorce in the Sunshine State. Same-sex married couples are held to the same standards as heterosexual couples when establishing jurisdiction in a divorce, which includes:
- One spouse must have been a resident of Florida for at least six months prior to petitioning for divorce
- The spouse seeking the divorce must file for the dissolution of marriage in the county where he/she or their spouse resides.
How To File For Divorce in Hillsborough County
The divorce process in Florida is the same — regardless of whether you are in a same-sex or opposite sex marriage. The following is a brief overview of what to expect.
File Divorce Petition
In addition to meeting the residency requirement, the only basis for filing a divorce is to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
Ms. Lasley can help you prepare a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” and file it with the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court located at 800 E. Twiggs Street. The petition is an important legal document that outlines your specific requests as it pertains to the issues relevant in your case such as asset division, debt allocation, spousal maintenance/alimony, child custody of minor children, and child support.
The current fee for filing for a divorce in Hillsborough County is $410.
Serve Papers Upon Spouse
Once the petition has been filed, a process server will physically deliver the petition to your spouse. A response is required within 20 days.
If you happen to be the one that has been served, Ms. Lasley can assist you in filing an answer or “counter petition” in which you state your side of the case and what you want.
Reply to Counter-Petition
Once a counter-petition is filed, the original petitioner must file a reply. This sets in motion the next phase: discovery.
In the discovery phase, you and your spouse must submit financial affidavits to the court. In addition, both of you must provide one another with “mandatory disclosure” or documentation supporting what was in the financial affidavit. This may include tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, deeds, titles, insurance policies, and any other proof of income, assets and debts. The discovery phase may take anywhere from 45 days up to a year depending on how collaborative the process is.
Mediation and Settlement
Once discovery is completed, you and your spouse will attend mediation. In mediation, a neutral mediator trained in divorce law will facilitate negotiation and communication between you and your spouse. This is a confidential process designed to give both of you the opportunity to control the outcome of your case rather than having a judge decide for you. If you are able to successfully work together to reach a compromise, a settlement agreement will be drafted and presented to a judge.
Preparing for Trial
If your case does not get settled in mediation, you and your spouse must appear before the court for a case management conference, or a pretrial conference, at which time the court will schedule a trial date for your case.
Dividing Property in a Same-Sex Divorce
In a Florida divorce, marital property is distributed equitably. This means the court begins with the presumption of a 50/50 split but ultimately distributes property in a manner that is deemed “fair” to both spouses. The state defines marital property as property accumulated by either spouse during the marriage. Florida statute defines the length of a marriage as the period of time from the date of marriage until the filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.
This definition can be problematic for gay and lesbian couples who were together for many years but whose marriage was not legally recognized until 2015. As a consequence, property that should be considered “joint-property” is actually non-marital property under the law and not subject to division. Ms. Lasley has experience dealing with a wide-range of same-sex property division issues and will fight to protect your assets and negotiate a property settlement that is fair and equitable.
The most common types of marital assets subject to division include:
- bank accounts
- marital home
- real estate
- retirement accounts
- stock options
- tangible personal property (jewelry, art, household furnishings)
Liabilities subject to division often include:
- mortgage debt
- credit card debt
- student loans
- tax liens
- car loans
Guidance for Child Custody Matters in Same-Sex Divorce
Child custody issues in a same-sex divorce can be complex. This is due, in part, to the unconventional ways in which same-sex couples create their families — often through reproductive technology, surrogacy or adoption. No matter what your personal situation is, same-sex divorce lawyer Mindi Lasley is committed to preserving and protecting the relationship you have with your child.
When there is one biological parent…
In many LGBTQ relationships, both partners act as parents, but only one parent is the biological parent of the child. This occurs when artificial insemination is used, using one partner’s egg or sperm to conceive a child. If the non-biological parent didn’t go through the formal adoption process of becoming a “step-parent” or “second-parent,” they will not have legal parental rights to custody or visitation nor will they have any legal responsibilities like paying child support.
When both parents adopt the child..
If both spouses adopted a child during the marriage, then both parents have parental rights. In this case, custody proceedings would proceed in the same way as any other divorce.
Providing Workable Child Custody Solutions for LGBTQ Families
During a divorce proceeding, you and your spouse will be tasked with establishing a child custody arrangement and time-sharing schedule, a parenting plan, and child support. The best course of action is to put your feelings for your partner aside and focus on what is best for the children. When you work with your partner to achieve compromise, you make everything less stressful for yourself and your kids. More importantly, you get to decide what your family’s future will look like, not a judge.
Child Custody Laws in Florida
Child custody in Florida is divided into “time-sharing” and parental responsibility. Time-sharing refers to the physical time spent with the children including where they will live. Parental responsibility refers to the authority to make religious, medical, educational, or other critical decisions related to the well-being of the children.
With certain exceptions, the family courts in Tampa and Hillsborough County are generally in favor of “co-parenting” after a divorce. This means they want both parents to maintain frequent contact with the children and to share in the child-rearing responsibilities and obligations.
Creating a Parenting Plan
The court requires divorcing parents to create a detailed parenting plan that outlines how they will raise the children after divorce. Ms. Lasley can help you structure and negotiate a favorable parenting plan that is tailored to fit the specific needs of your kids.
A typical parenting plan includes:
- a time-sharing schedule detailing the amount of time each of you will spend with your children. This includes the number of overnight stays you each will have, as well as who has the kids on holidays, birthdays, school breaks, etc.
- description of each parent’s rights and responsibilities related to the children’s education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, religious beliefs, etc.
- rules for transporting kids including how and when exchanges will happen
- procedure for how you and your spouse will resolve potential disputes
- child support details
Under Florida law, both parents are legally obligated to provide financial support for their minor children. Typically, the parent who has most of the time-sharing will likely receive child support from the parent with the least time-sharing. Child support is calculated based on a formula that considers:
- the net monthly income of each parent
- the number of children being considered for child support.
- the number of overnight visits a parent has with the minor child
- employment status/work history of each parent
- childcare expenses
- cost of health and dental insurance premium
If you are ordered to pay child support, Ms. Lasley will aim to make sure the payment is within your financial means. Conversely, if you are seeking child support, she will pursue a fair amount that meets all of your children’s needs.
Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance is money that one spouse pays another spouse after the marriage. Alimony payments provide financial assistance to a spouse that was financially dependent on the other spouse during the marriage. It is meant to help ease the transition into financial independence.
Florida family courts have discretion over whether or not alimony will be awarded, the amount of support paid, and how long payments will last. One of the factors the court considers when determining alimony is the length of the marriage. Florida defines a short marriage as lasting 7 years and a long marriage lasting over 17 years. These benchmarks can seem unfair to same-sex couples who may have been together for many years but only legally married since 2015.
Whether you are seeking alimony or have been asked to pay it, you need a same-sex attorney by your side who can navigate the unique challenges same-sex couples face.
Tampa Same-Sex Divorce Lawyer
Are you currently in a same-sex marriage and thinking about getting a divorce? Same-sex divorce is still a relatively new area of law in Florida and requires the dedicated counsel of a skilled same-sex divorce attorney. Mindi Lasley proudly represents members of the LGBT community in Tampa and Hillsborough County in all divorce-related matters. She is prepared to help you find the solution you need to move forward with your life.
Call (813) 873-9047 today to schedule a free consultation!