Five Important Things to Know About the Divorce Process in Florida
A Divorce can be very confusing and overwhelming. This is especially true if you do not have a lawyer guiding you through the process. The technical term for a divorce process in Florida is called a Dissolution of Marriage. There are different types of dissolutions depending on whether you and your spouse agree on getting divorced, on whether you have children, and on whether you have marital assets to be divided by the court. We work with individuals going through this process every day. Each person’s goal or priorities during the divorce may be different. We structure our legal strategy in handling your case, to not only protect your rights but to also cater to your main goals and priorities. In this report, we are going to introduce five important things to know about the divorce process in Florida. This will allow you to understand what to expect in a potential divorce. Please keep in mind that this is general information. If you would like our help and guidance in your specific situation, please contact us immediately! 1. You do not have to plead fault to get a divorce in Florida. Florida is a no-fault state. This means that either party can file for divorce regardless of wrongdoings that led to the divorce. The person that files the Petition for Dissolution must simply plead that the marriage is irretrievably broken so that the court may proceed with the divorce. The court may take adultery into consideration in awarding alimony, in dividing marital assets and awarding attorney’s fees. 2. Once the Petition is filed, the receiving party will have 20 days to respond. The divorce process starts when the filing spouse, the Petitioner, files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the clerk of courts. The clerk will assign the case a number and a judge. The Petitioner will have to give the receiving spouse, the Respondent, formal notice of the matter. The Petitioner must have an officer authorized by law to serve process, usually, a process server or the local sheriff’s office, to serve the divorce documents on the Respondent. Once the Respondent is served, the Respondent has 20 days to file an Answer to the Petitioner’s Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Respondent may file a Counter-Petition. 3. You can ask for, or be ordered to pay, attorneys fees in a divorce case. If you cannot afford to pay your attorney’s their legal fee, the court may force the other party to pay your attorney’s fee. Florida Statutes allows the court to consider the financial resources of both parties in ordering a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and costs to the other party in a divorce action. The request must be done in writing. It should be in a Petition or Counter-Petition. A request for temporary support can also be filed while the case is pending. If you file a motion for attorney’s fees and the other party does not agree to pay, you may ask the judge for a hearing. 4. You can ask the judge to declare that you are legally divorced before the termination of the case. In the event of an emergency, you may ask that the court enter a final judgment of dissolution that legal changes your status from married to single. The technical term for splitting a divorce case is called bifurcation. Where the court agrees to bifurcate your case, you will be legally single, but the court will retain jurisdiction of your case to finalize any issues dealing with minor children of the marriage, marital property, alimony, and child support. This is not done often and can be argued to be against the public policy of Florida, but it special circumstance, the court may agree to bifurcate a divorce. 5. You and your spouse will have an opportunity to resolve the issues on your own before the final hearing. In Florida, the parties will have the opportunity to resolve their case on their own even before going to a final hearing in court. The judge will refer the parties to mediation. During mediation, the parties and their attorneys will meet with a mediator. The mediator will attempt to find common ground between the parties so that they can enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement. The parties may agree on how to divide marital assets, on a parenting plan, alimony, child support, and any other issues unique to the case. In the event the parties are successful at mediation, a Marital Settlement Agreement will be signed. That agreement will be presented to the court for ratification. In the event the parties do not agree and do not settle their difference at mediation, the parties will have their day in court. A final hearing will be scheduled to allow each party an opportunity to present evidence to the court. The judge will make the final decision on how to resolve the parties’ differences. DISCLAIMER- The contents of this handout are general and not be taken as advice or instructions. Every business is different, and the above might not be applicable to your situation. Before taking action that could have legal ramifications, contact the Elizee Law Firm.