When a Judge tries a Dissolution of Marriage Case, he or she will use the acronym PEACE to prioritize the issues and reach a decision regarding your family. What is PEACE? It is the 5 Steps of consideration:
1. Parental Responsibility
2. Equitable Distribution
4. Child Support
5. Everything Else
Before I give you a brief overview of PEACE, I submit to you the following disclaimer: The following descriptions of the PEACE issues are general in nature. Every rule has its exceptions and every case has different facts which may or may not affect the general application. Most importantly, Judges’ histories and personalities also impact how they analyze the PEACE factors for your case.
PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY: Florida no longer uses the terminology “custody” or “visitation”. Parental Responsibility involves decision making for your children. There are essentially two types of parental responsibility; shared and sole. Shared Parental Responsibility is NOT Joint Custody. It is rather parents sharing the responsibilities associated with their children. These responsibilities include among other things; where they go to school, what doctor they use, what extra curricular activities they participate in and where they will live. I expect to address how the Court expects you to exercise shared parental responsibility in my next blog so stay tuned. Sole Parental Responsibility is very rare and very difficult to obtained because it essentially tells the Court that one parent has nothing of value to contribute to the children’s lives.
In the Court’s consideration of Parental Responsibility, its primary question is “what is in the best interest of the child?” Included in its analysis is the timesharing schedule the children will exercise with each parent. You may have heard or read that the Courts are mandated to give equal contact to both parents. That is an untruth! There are many factors that the legislature has mandated that the Court consider in developing a timesharing schedule. So while it is true that Courts today strive to give the child as much time with both parents which may in fact be 50/50, they are mandated to consider what is in the best interest of the child.
Equitable Distribution: Generally, the Court will start at an equal distribution of all assets and debts acquired or incurred from the date you are married until the date your petition for dissolution of marriage is filed, regardless of whose name the asset or debt is titled.
Alimony: Is there a need and is there an ability to pay? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then the Court will consider other factors in deciding whether alimony is order, if so, what amount and for how long. Some of those factors include the length of the marriage, the standard of living during marriage and the health of the parties. Infidelity is generally NOT a consideration.
Child Support: An income formula is used which factors in the incomes of the parties, the number of children, the timesharing arrangement, health insurance, child care costs, and special needs. It is generally not something that you should spend a lot of litigation time and money on because 9 out of 10 times the Court will NOT deviate from the Florida Guidelines.
Everything Else: This generally is the consideration of Attorney Fees. The Court will then consider whether there is a need and whether there is an ability to pay. Generally, if the assets and debts are equally distributed and there is not a gross disparity in the parties incomes, the Court will NOT award attorney fees. It is a myth that the spouse who wants out of the marriage must pay the other spouse’s attorney fees.
Well that is PEACE in a nutshell. As they say in the movies, “may the odds be ever in your favor.” If you have further questions or need help with your case, please feel free to contact me at (407) 343-4730 and schedule a personal consultation to discuss the unique factors which may impact the Judge’s decisions for your family.
Gail Linscott Silva, Esquire