What Is The Divorce Process in Florida

Who can I hire to represent me during my divorce?

Clerks, judges, paralegals, and your spouse’s attorney are not permitted to provide legal advice. In your case, only you or a lawyer you have hired can represent your interests.

Divorce cases can be complicated, and you may need to hire a lawyer to represent you.

What exactly is a marriage dissolution?

Divorce is referred to as “dissolution of marriage” in Florida.

If you have no children, are not pregnant, have agreed on property division, and no one is seeking alimony, you may be eligible for a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.”

If you do not qualify for the “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage,” you can file using the “Regular Dissolution of Marriage” method.

What are the steps involved in a divorce?

Dissolution of marriage cases can be complicated, and each case is unique, but here are the general steps:

Step 1: Submitting a Petition

A standard dissolution of marriage lawsuit begins when one spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage. This is done in the circuit court of the county where both spouses last lived together or where either spouse currently resides. The petition must state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and explain what the court is asking for. Forms can be found on the Florida Courts website. Throughout the case, the person who files the initial petition will be referred to as “the petitioner.”

Step 2: Submitting an Answer

The spouse who did not file the petition has 20 days from the date they are served with the petition to file an answer. In an answer, the respondent (the spouse who did not file the petition) tells the court which parts of the petition he or she agrees with or admits are true, which parts he or she disagrees with or denies, and which parts he or she is unaware of. The respondent may file a counter-petition for dissolution of marriage and raise additional issues with the court in this case. The petitioner would then be required to respond to the counter-petition. Forms can be found on the Florida Courts website.

Step 3: Submit any additional paperwork that is required.

Within 45 days of the petition’s service, a financial affidavit must be filed.

Before any child support hearing, a child-support guidelines worksheet must be filed.

In any case involving minor children, an Affidavit under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) must be filed – even if you and your spouse have no disagreement about time-sharing.

Forms can be found on the Florida Courts website.

Step 4: Investigate

In addition to the financial affidavit, which must be filed with the court within 45 days of the petition’s filing, other financial information must be provided to the opposing party in your case (but not filed with the case). These are known as mandatory disclosures, and they include things like your tax returns, proof of income, debt statements, credit cards, bank accounts, and retirement accounts.

Both spouses have the right to know what information the other spouse has about the case. During discovery, both parties will be required to reveal financial details, produce relevant documents upon request, and respond under oath to questions from the opposing party.

5th Step: Mediation

Most parts of Florida will require you to go through mediation to see if you can reach an agreement on the issues on which you have not already agreed. If you are a victim of domestic violence, there is an exception.

Parenting Plans (Step 6)

When there are minor children involved in a divorce, the court must either approve an agreed-upon parenting plan or enter its own parenting plan. When establishing a parenting plan, the court will take into account a variety of factors. In general, the law requires the judge to make every effort to ensure that children maintain regular and ongoing contact with both parents. Both parents are expected to “share the rights and responsibilities, as well as the joys and sorrows, of childrearing.” (Fla. Stat. 62.13(2)(c))

Parenting plans are one of the issues that you and your spouse can agree on through negotiation or mediation. A parenting plan agreement can then be presented to the judge for approval.

A parenting plan must include the following elements:

  • how the parties intend to share the daily tasks involved in raising a child or children;
  • a time-sharing schedule;
  • a decision on who will be in charge of filling out forms for health care, school, and other activities;
  • and, how parents will communicate with the children

If you have minor children, Florida law requires that both spouses attend a parenting class before the court can grant a final divorce. The clerk of court in your area can provide you with more specific information on when and where these classes are offered.

A parenting plan form is available on the Florida Courts website to assist you in completing it.

7th Step: The Trial

A contested final hearing is the name given to the trial.

If you are unable to reach an agreement after mediation, a final hearing, or trial, will be scheduled in your case. This will be heard by a judge rather than a jury. If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on some of the issues in your case, you should draft and file a marital settlement agreement for dissolution of marriage with the court. A settlement agreement may include property division, a parenting plan, alimony, child support, and legal fees. This must be signed and notarized by both of you. Forms can be found on the Florida Courts website.

The judge will hear from both sides at your final hearing. Each will be allowed to present evidence, including testimony, to the court. The opposing party has the right to cross-examine (ask questions of) witnesses. Bring anyone you want to speak to the judge with you. Dress neatly, as if you were going to a job interview. Arrive early to find parking, pass through security, and locate the correct room. Do not interrupt, and always address the judge as “ma’am,” “sir,” or “your honor.”

After the hearing, the judge will make a decision on any issues not resolved by you in the settlement agreement and enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage. If you have minor children, the court will also approve or establish a parenting plan.

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