Trial Can Be a Legal Roulette
You never know what a judge will rule! This is so true when it comes to the final decision a judge will make concerning a case. Taking a divorce handled in Family Court in Florida, for example, a judge must rule on many issues. While there are guidelines in the Florida Statutes for divorce, it is up to a judge to decide how best to apply the guidelines to each situation. Some of the areas a judge must rule on include:
Alimony: there are six types in Florida, each with its own set of qualifications. A judge must decide if alimony is to be awarded and if so, which type, to whom (can be the man or the woman) and how much and for how long.
Equitable distribution of marital assets and debts: Florida is an equitable distribution state, not equal distribution. While striving to be fair and consider evidence to support who should get what, this means a judge must decide the final outcome. As pets are considered marital property, “who gets the dog” is also left up to a judge.
Parental timesharing will be determined by a judge, including how overnights are handled and how the required parenting plan will be created and executed.
In the case when a parent or both parents are in jail, on drugs, physically or mentally ill, or have a record of child abuse or domestic violence, a judge will determine the custody arrangement for any minor children resulting from the union.
With the help of a computer program, the judge will order child support, its amount, and to whom it will be paid.
Now, imagine if you were a judge. You know the guidelines inside and out, but you are a human. Suppose you had a poor night’s sleep; you woke to find the dog had been sick on the living room carpet; the shirt you wanted to wear had a stain on the collar; there was no milk for your cereal, and you had to call AAA because your car wouldn’t start. When you finally get behind the bench, you find a couple glaring at each other, each with an attorney “out to get blood.” In the course of the proceedings, you notice the man seems very smug and self-assured while his wife seems afraid of the future. Indeed, the man filed for the divorce, and since Florida is a no-fault state, the fact the husband was having an active marital affair and using family funds for selfish purposes doesn’t matter. However, it can sometimes make a difference in the awarding of alimony, so you decide this will be one of those times. Even when the husband’s attorney proves the wife had become distant and made the husband sleep in the guest room, you plan to give the wife a nice alimony award. And, to further help the wife, you award her the family dog and the expensive stereo system. It makes you feel better to know something went right in your day.
The point of the above example is to show that judges are human, and any number of factors can, like a roulette wheel, influence the outcome of a spin. All this being said, there is a way to avoid the roulette spin of a judge. With the help of their attorney, a couple can decide their own outcomes by working through mediation and compromising together to work out a marital agreement signed by both parties. Other issues, such as modification of alimony, child support, or a parenting plan, can also be decided at mediation. A judge will review the agreement before signing it into an order, but in most cases, there will be little or no changes.