So you and your spouse have come to the decision that you want a divorce – where do you start? Divorce is often messy and time-consuming, but every divorce is different.
Below we have listed the different types of procedures that Florida offers couples seeking a divorce. Understanding the options that are available to you can help to alleviate stress and make the process clearer.
Simplified Divorce. Need a painless and cost-effective divorce procedure? Florida has something called Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.
The first and most important thing to know is that this divorce procedure is only available for couples who do not have or are not expecting children. So if you have kids with your spouse, feel free to skip ahead to the next option.
Additionally, neither spouse should be seeking alimony payments, and you must mutually agree that the marriage cannot be saved. One of the spouses must also have lived in Florida for six months prior to the divorce filing.
Before you file for this type of divorce, both of you will have to agree ahead of time on how marital property will be distributed and how joint obligations will be paid. A “financial affidavit” and “property settlement agreement” must also be filled out and attached to the petition. Each party is required to testify in court that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that they agree to the items in the document.
Do I Need to hire a family lawyer? It’s possible for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage to be filled out and filed by each party. But an attorney can help file the documents and finalize the divorce faster. And if there are disagreements present but both parties still want a simplified divorce, an attorney can sometimes act as a mediator to bring each party to agreement.
Regular Divorce. Rarely do you find someone telling you that his or her divorce was “simple.” The two other types of divorce you may face in Florida are both referred to as a “regular divorce.” Rather than both parties filing for divorce together, a regular divorce only requires one party, or “petitioner,” to file for divorce with the court. The divorce papers are then given to the other party, or “respondent.”
The petitioner must prove that he or she has been a resident of Florida for over six months, and that the marriage in question is irretrievably broken, before the papers are served to the respondent. The respondent must respond with a written answer to the court, and then the proceedings begin.
As mentioned above, there are two types of “regular” divorce.
Uncontested Divorce – Similar to a simplified divorce, an uncontested divorce is available for spouses who have come to an agreement on all financial and custody-related issues. Within 45 days of a petitioner serving divorce papers, both parties must submit a “marital settlement agreement” or “divorce settlement,” along with a financial affidavit. Both spouses will have to testify at a hearing to make the divorce final.
Do I Need a Lawyer? Similar to a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, a family attorney can help you and your spouse file paperwork faster in the event of an uncontested divorce. Forty-five days may seem like a long time, but it can pass by quickly during this stressful procedure. A professional can help make sure both parties do their part.
Contested Divorce – The division of marital property, child custody, and joint responsibilities can add a heavy burden onto spouses who are already facing high tension. If you or your spouse cannot seem to come to a compromise on financial or parental issues, you are still able to get a divorce. A contested divorce is available for spouses who cannot agree on how property, finances, or child custody will be handled after the divorce is finalized.
A contested divorce is initially filed just like an uncontested divorce. Instead of submitting the proper agreements and affidavits to court, however, the spouses will take their disagreements to court. A judge will hear testimony from each spouse, take a look at each party’s financial situation, each spouse’s relationship to any children at the center of custody agreements, and any other factors relevant to the divorce. Then the judge will issue his or her final decisions and the divorce will be finalized.
Do I Need a Lawyer? If you are facing a contested divorce, you will need an experienced lawyer to represent you in court. Matters of child custody, alimony, and the division of marital property can affect you and your children for the rest of your life. It is important to fight for the property, payments, and agreements that you deserve.
Do not let a lack of funds deter you from filing for divorce or seeking representation in court. Consider a family attorney an investment for you, your children, and your future. Call the Florida Family Law Clinic today for a free consultation and cost-effective representation in your divorce settlement.