Florida Divorce Process
The steps in a divorce depend on your unique situation. If you and your spouse are able to work things out together and efficiently reach agreements, the divorce process may be much more straightforward than it would in a contested divorce, where both sides cannot see eye-to-eye and are unable to reach agreements as a result. Generally, however, the Florida divorce typically goes as follows:
- Step 1: The divorce process begins when you or your spouse files a Petition for a Dissolution of Marriage with the Circuit Court in the county where either party resides. Florida is a no-fault divorce state, meaning, you or your spouse only have to allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. You do not have to explain why.
- Step 2: Once the petition is filed, the other spouse must be “served.” If you filed the divorce petition, a sheriff or certified court processer will serve the divorce papers for you. From there, your spouse must file an answer within 20 days of being served. Their answer must address the matters outlined in the original petition and may or may not include a counter-petition consisting of additional issues that your spouse wants to address. If your spouse agrees to all the matters in the divorce papers, then the divorce is “uncontested.” However, the divorce will be “contested” if your spouse does not agree to all the matters in the divorce papers.
- Step 3: Both parties must provide certain financial documents, including a Financial Affidavit, to each other. This is because financial disclosure is key to helping the Court and spouses address matters such as child support, alimony, and more.
- Step 4: Mediation is a popular alternative to litigation, as it allows spouses to reach agreements on their terms rather than letting a judge decide. Mediation is a cost-effective, expedited, and effective way of resolving divorce matters such as child support, visitation, and property division. However, mediation is not for everyone. Spouses who get along and respect one another would benefit from mediation more than spouses who are resentful and uncooperative.
- Step 5: The Collaborative Law approach, each spouse hires his or her own lawyer, and the lawyers work with each other and the spouses to draft an amicable agreement for everyone. It is best suited for parties who are willing to work together and are open to compromise but who need help and guidance along the way.
- Step 6: In an uncontested divorce, both spouses must draft and sign a written agreement and present it to the Court. A judge can then finalize the divorce in a short amount of time. On the other hand, a contested divorce will look a little different at this stage. If you and your spouse cannot agree on all issues, you will both attend a final hearing, where both parties will present evidence and testimony to the judge. From there, the judge will make a decision on the contested issues.
How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?
It depends. If your divorce is contested, the process could take anywhere from 6 weeks to several months and even years if circumstances call for it. An uncontested divorce in Florida generally takes a shorter amount of time to obtain, typically, between 4 and 6 weeks after the petition has been filed. Remember, though, that the divorce timeline in Florida ultimately depends on the contested issues in your divorce and the ability of you and your spouse to reach timely resolutions.
Retaining a skilled and knowledgeable divorce attorney could help ease the burdens of your situation. They can help expedite the process and offer effective solutions that help you and your spouse reach mutually beneficial agreements without going to Court. That said, we strongly encourage you to get trustworthy and honest legal representation from our divorce attorneys George & French, Attorneys at Law. We are just a phone call away!
Is Going to Court the Only Way?
No! If you and your spouse are on relatively good terms, you can opt for the collaborative law approach. This is a process where the terms of your divorce settlement are negotiated outside of the courtroom, potentially saving time and legal fees.
With collaborative divorce, each spouse hires an attorney to represent them, but everyone works together to reach an agreement on property division, spousal support, child custody, child support, and other issues pertinent to the divorce.