A divorce is generally an uncertain and unsettling event for every individual involved. Therefore, many seek to have direct guidance and tasks in order to sustain some consistency and defined responsibility in their divorce proceeding. Therefore, your divorce attorney has provided a general outline for the process of a divorce.
Step 1: File a Petition. The first document that will initiate a divorce action is known as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. It will be filed with the clerk’s office in the court with jurisdiction to hear your divorce petition. The petition must contain the grounds for the divorce, stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and a statement of relief or what you are requesting the court to do.
Step 2: Serve your Spouse. After the petition has been filed, the clerk will provide you with a case number and you will request a summons from the clerk. This summons, along with a copy of the petition must be personally served on your spouse. This is generally done at their home, or place of work, and must be done within 120 days of filing the petition. However, if you are unable to locate your spouse other options of service are available. Still, this step is required in order for the case to proceed and usually occurs within a week after receipt of the summons from the clerk.
Step 3: File an Answer. If you did not file the initial petition and instead are served with these documents, you must file an answer within 20 days of receipt of service. The answer is a simple response, admitting or denying the specific allegation in the petition. In essence, you are agreeing or disagreeing with each statement made in the action. With an answer, you may also file a counter petition to address certain claims you have and the relief you request from the court during these proceedings. The petitioner will not respond to the answer filed, however, if a counter petition is filed, the petitioner is required to file an answer to the counter petition within 20 days.
Step 4: Comply with Mandatory Disclosures. In every Florida divorce case, the state requires certain papers and documents to be filed or exchanged between the parties. Some of these documents include a Financial Affidavit, Certificate of Compliance, Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit. All must be filed by the parties within 45 days of service. Extensions of time are allowed if both parties agree or by motion filed with the court 5 days prior to the due date.
Step 5: File/Respond to Discovery Requests. After review of the mandatory documents, the parties may seek additional information through discovery tactics. These include Interrogatories, Request for Production, Depositions, or Request for Admissions. Interrogatories and Requests for Production or Admission must be responded to within 30 days of receipt. Depositions can occur within 30 days of initiating the case upon approval by the court, or anytime after that 30 day period with reasonable notice given.
Step 6: Mediation. Mediation is generally required in every divorce action prior to a case entering a trial. Mediation will occur after disclosures have been made and typically after discovery procedures have concluded. This allows each side to know and understand the exact issues and claims of the parties as well as the evidence that will support or hinder their case. Mediation is set between the parties and generally will be scheduled for a half day.
Step 7: Trial. The final step in a divorce action, if the parties are unable to come to an agreement outside of court, is to be seen before a judge in a formal trial setting. Each side will be able to present their case, provide evidence and testimony supporting their specific claims. The judge will take each piece of evidence presented into account and determine a final agreement for the parties. The courts generally will schedule a trial at least a month in advance and can last anywhere from an hour to a couple days depending on the issues.
It is important to note that this outline is a generalization, your case may look different, and your divorce attorney may require less or more items or tasks from you. Therefore, in addition to this timeline, ensure you keep up to date with your case and formulate your own task list or timeline throughout your discussions and meetings with your lawyer.
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