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Florida Divorce Basics: Understanding the Process

Divorce is never a fun process, but for many people it represents an opportunity to leave a difficult past behind and move on to a brighter future. Because it can be a complicated legal process, and because it may have repercussions on your life for years to come, it can be very intimidating. In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at some of the basics. If you’re contemplating divorce, we highly recommend that you speak to an experienced divorce lawyer. We’re happy to offer a complimentary consultation to discuss your situation!

In Florida the only requirement for divorce, or “dissolution of marriage,” the official term, is that the marriage be “irretrievably broken.” To file for divorce in Florida, at least one spouse must have been a Florida resident for at least six months preceding the filing date, there must be proof of a marriage, and the marriage must be irretrievably broken. Either spouse may file for divorce. Florida is considered a “no fault state” which means that the reasons for the divorce are not important with regards to actually getting divorced, even though those reasons may affect other issues within the divorce.

In Florida there are two different ways of getting a divorce. The most common is “regular dissolution of marriage.” Less common is the “simplified dissolution of marriage”, which will be discussed in-depth in a future blog entry.

Regular dissolution of marriage is initiated when a petition is filed in the county where the spouses last lived together or where one of them presently resides.  The spouse who files a petition must state that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The petition includes what the petitioner wants the court to do or order.

The other spouse then has 20 days to respond. He or she may submit a counter petition which would outline what THEY want the court to do or order that is different from what the initiating spouse wants.

Each spouse must produce financial documents and a financial affidavit for the other spouse within 45 days of the petition being filed or before any temporary hearing. Failure to produce the documents can result in the case being dismissed or the court ignoring that party’s requests. A worksheet outlining child-support guidelines, if applicable, must also be filed.

Some couples agree on the essential outlines of property division and parental responsibility. Such a couple can submit a written agreement signed by both parties, and the divorce can potentially become final after just a few weeks.

Mediation is available for couples who can’t come to an agreement. Sometimes mediation is required before a trial date can be set.

If the couple is unable to agree, a trial date is set. If a divorce goes to trial, the judge makes a final decision on the points of disagreement. The judge’s decision may be appealed; however, it’s uncommon for the decision to be reversed as the trial court judge has discretion over many of the aspects he is deciding on.

As you can imagine, the process is often messy – and it can be emotionally devastating. Because the terms of your divorce can have a significant impact on the rest of your life, it’s critical to have an experienced divorce lawyer at your side to help you make these important decisions. Please contact us today if you’d like to learn more.