Divorce can be one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences of a person’s life. Since Florida family courts and related divorce statutes govern the process of divorce, every end of a marriage must undergo a series of steps in order to obtain a divorce settlement.
In general, the length of time required to complete these steps will mainly depend on whether a divorce is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce is defined as a situation where both spouses are in complete agreement on every single detail (e.g. alimony, property division, child custody, child support, etc.) and it takes the shortest amount of time of any other type of divorce. While couples going through an uncontested divorce have a 20-day waiting period in between filing and the hearing, this type of divorce is typically finalized in a matter of weeks.
By contrast, a contested divorce will take a longer period of time since the couple cannot agree on one or more terms of the divorce. Overall, a contested divorce may take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete, depending on how quickly you and the other party can come up with a divorce agreement.
The following is a timeline of a typical contested divorce in Florida:
- To begin a divorce, one of the spouses retains a divorce attorney and who writes up a petition, which is a legal document which states why the spouse wants to get divorced and how he/she wants to settle financial, custody, and other issues.
- The lawyer files the petition with the family law court.
- The attorney or the court ensures that the petition is served on the other spouse, together with a summons that requires the spouse to make a response.
- The served spouse must answer whether or not he/she agrees with the petition within 20 days. If he/she doesn’t answer the petition, the court assumes he/she agrees to its terms. The response also indicates how the served spouse would prefer to deal with the divorce conditions.
- Once the served spouse responds, between three to nine months is normally needed to prepare financial disclosures and exchange information, which is known as discovery. This will involve assets, properties, income, and expenses of both parties through financial affidavits, as well as utilize depositions, record subpoenas, and other requests for information necessary for each spouse to build their case.
- As soon as both parties have received and revealed all necessary information and prepared their cases, negotiations and mediations may start. This stage is required for all Florida divorces and can help both spouses come together towards a mutual divorce agreement, allowing the divorce process to come to an end, sooner than later.
- If a settlement is reached, the settlement agreement is shown to a judge at an informal hearing. The judge will ask several basic questions and whether each spouse understands and chose to sign the agreement.
- If the judge approves the agreement, the couple will receive a divorce decree which details what they agreed to. If the judge denies approval, or if the couple is not able to reach an agreement, the case will go to trial.
- At trial, each party’s lawyer will present evidence and arguments. The judge has the power to decide on any unresolved issues. Once the judge has reached a decision, he/she grants the divorce.
- Either or both spouses can appeal a judge’s decision to a higher court.
A knowledgeable and skilled divorce lawyer can help you navigate through the intricacies of the divorce process and ensure your financial security. From the initial consultation to the divorce hearings, an attorney will protect your rights and best interests until an agreement is reached.
If you are interested in filing for divorce in Florida, request a confidential consultation with our experienced family law attorney at The Virga Law Firm, P.A. today.