Deciding to get a divorce is a significant step in your life, but it is only the beginning of a much bigger process. Divorce can become very complicated, so you must understand what to expect, going into this new phase of your life. The specifics of your divorce will vary depending on your overall circumstances but use this guide as a way to set some basic expectations of some high-level commonalities in a Florida divorce.
Step One: Paperwork
The first thing you will need to do when beginning the divorce process is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You will submit one of three petitions. The appropriate type of petition depends on factors such as whether or not your spouse has decided to work with you collaboratively through the divorce process or whether or not you have children.
Depending on the type of divorce you file for, the complications of your marriage, and the number of agreements that you and your spouse will need to come to, there will be extensive paperwork once the divorce process officially begins. When you are working with an experienced divorce lawyer, you can be sure that your paperwork is correctly filled out and submitted every time.
Types of Divorce
The type of divorce you file for in Florida depends a lot on how you and your spouse can work together. Florida has a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce, and the route you take is entirely up to you and your spouse.
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse refuse to agree on one or more issues of your divorce, and as a result, you both leave it up to a family court judge to determine the disputed aspects of your divorce. A contested divorce is a time consuming and extremely involved option which requires a lot of time and money. Mediation is mandatory, and 98% of all divorces settle at mediation. If you do not agree on one or more issues, you will need to appear at a trial (final hearing), where a family court judge will make a ruling.
If you and your spouse have worked out an agreement on all issues of your case, then we can proceed with an uncontested divorce. This process involves the drafting of your petition, settlement agreement, and miscellaneous documents the court requires. You can expect to be divorced in less than 30 days. However, you must have an understanding of all issues. For example, if you and your spouse agreed on all matters, but you can't agree on alimony, for example, or how to split the time-sharing schedule, then a contested divorce is your only option.
In most Florida counties, mediation is mandatory before your case can be scheduled for trial. At mediation, you and your spouse, along with your respective attorneys, will work with a neutral mediator to address each issue. The mediator will work to find common ground and a fair solution for each of you. It is crucial to have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side. Your lawyer can explain your rights, will explain if an offer is fair or not fair, what a judge would likely do if the case went to trial, and will be a counselor to help you navigate the mediation. We believe strongly that your case is successful based on the mediation. Finding the right mediator is crucial, but also having the right lawyer by your side is equally important. An experienced lawyer can prove to be an invaluable investment that will enable you to reach a divorce agreement that protects your financial interests.
Collaborative divorce is different from mediation. Instead of having a neutral third party like a mediator negotiate between the parties, you each have a divorce lawyer present to negotiate the divorce terms. In this, you each agree to work together as well, and both parties use their lawyers to negotiate an acceptable divorce agreement.
Depending on your marriage and the nature of your divorce, there may be more or fewer issues that you need to work through to finalize the process.
That said, here are some common issues that spouses must work through, either with or without a hearing, to officially end their marriage:
- Division of marital property
- Division of assets
- Division of debts
- Child custody
- Child support
No matter how many of these issues you will need to work through, it is constructive to have a legal professional with experience in Florida divorce law.
It is essential to discuss fees with your attorney right at the start to understand your payment agreement and move forward with the process comfortably. The divorce process can be expensive, so make sure you have a clear idea of your situation as soon as possible. An attorney should provide you a written retainer agreement with specific details as to what the scope of the work will be, and what fees you should expect.
Much like cost, the amount of time your divorce will take can depend on many factors. The cooperation of your spouse and their lawyer will help move the case forward. Your collaboration with your lawyer will also help. Disclosing all financial documents within the first month or two will ensure that you are in mediation within six months of starting the process. Our goal is to have our clients in mediation within four to six months.
No matter how simple or complicated your divorce may seem, having an experienced lawyer will be a significant asset to making this process as smooth and fair as possible.
If you have questions about your divorce, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer. At Florida Divorce Law Group, we practice family law throughout Florida, and we have consultation offices in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. We also have Zoom video meetings available, and of course phone consultations.