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Divorce in Florida: What Women Need to Know

In Florida, irretrievable breakdown of a marriage is considered grounds for divorce. A variety of factors can lead to a marriage ending. Unresolved conflict, long physical separations, differing interests, distrust, resentment, fighting, or domestic violence can all lead to the end of a marriage. The emotional stress of divorce is challenging enough for both spouses, but Florida divorce proceedings present some unique challenges for women in particular.

One unique challenge a woman faces as she undergoes divorce proceedings is the question of whether she will keep her married name, restore her maiden name, or take on a new name entirely.

This is a complex issue for many women, especially if children are involved in the marriage. Some women elect to keep a married name in order to continue to share a last name with their children.

An Orlando Sentinel report looked into issues women face as they make the difficult decision about changing or keeping their married names. In Florida, a woman can change her name for free while the divorce case remains open. Yet, divorce raises many complex questions for both parties, and women may choose to wait on making a decision about changing or keeping her name. What many women may not know is that in Florida, there is a cost to waiting for after the divorce to change a name—a sum to the tune of $400. For women who may be facing the challenges of finding a new home, a new job, or adjusting to the new realities of single motherhood, this fee might just be too prohibitive.

Divorcing couples have to make decisions about the division of property and determine whether alimony is due. Because many women give up careers and educational opportunities over the course of a marriage, alimony may be appropriate. Florida’s alimony laws favor short-term, limited alimony over long-term or permanent alimony, so women need to be plan and be prepared for a changed financial life following divorce.

It’s no surprise that women facing the emotional and practical challenges of divorce might not consider a name change a big deal, and many women elect to just put it off. If a woman doesn’t want to pay the hefty $400 fee, she could have her divorce case re-opened, for $50. Even if a woman chooses to take this route, her petition is at the mercy of a judge. The judge has to decide to hear the case again. For women who suffered through a contentious or difficult divorce, this may simply not be an option.

Divorce attorneys who represent women who are in the process of going through a divorce generally take the stance against advising women about whether to change or keep her name. While the decision is a very personal one, women should be aware that waiting may bring financial consequences. Many women are simply not ready to make the decision while the divorce is underway. Unfortunately, Florida law penalizes women who wait with a rather hefty fee.

Divorce places a great emotional burden on individuals who are living through the experience. Andrea Gillies, a writer for the Guardian, likened the process to death. After her husband informed her that he didn’t love her anymore, and she made arrangements to leave, she found herself crying in public. She writes, “What I hadn’t expected was how muchdivorce would undermine the past.” More practical loses Gilies faced was the reality that she’d probably never be able to afford a home on her own.

Huffington Post article reported that as many as 30% of women knew that they were making a mistake when they got married. For women about to get married, the Post reminds women, “Absolutely don’t think that divorce can be used as an escape route without consequences.”