In Florida, anyone who seeks a divorce must file a petition for a Dissolution of Marriage. But this is only the first step in the Florida divorce process. In some instances, both parties quickly come to terms on all major issues to be resolved. But in other instances, there are real disagreements that may require mediation or even a trial. Understanding the steps you must take to achieve an equitable resolution can help prepare you for success.
Florida Divorce Process: How to Get a Divorce in Florida
After you have decided that your marriage is irretrievably broken and you want a divorce, Florida law requires that you do the following:
- File a Petition – You must file a petition with the Clerk of the Court for a formal Dissolution of Marriage.
- Give Formal Notice To Your Spouse – A licensed process server will serve your petition to your spouse, who has 20 days to respond. In many uncontested divorces, this is a mere formality, as couples have already reached an agreement on major issues. But in contested divorces, in which major issues are likely to be disputed, the other party’s response usually contains a counter-petition.
- File Motions – You or your spouse may file motions, which are formal requests to the court to initiate some kind of action. In divorce petitions that involve children, common motions are to request temporary custody, temporary child support, and temporary spousal support. It’s important to understand that motions are merely requests, and there’s no guarantee that a judge will agree to them.
- Work Through The Discovery Process – In most legal actions, there is a discovery phase, which allows both parties to obtain documents and evidence to bolster the claims they will make during the divorce trial itself. Discovery also allows both sides to view a witness list, depose witnesses, and request financial documents.
- Attend The Hearing – Unlike a full trial, a hearing is a shorter session in which a judge listens to the reasons for the motions that were previously filed. These motions are usually requests for court orders that will only last through the duration of the divorce. Examples include temporary child support and temporary custody.
- Go Through Mediation – All contested divorces must go through mediation, in which a neutral third party tries to get both sides to compromise and reach a Marital Settlement Agreement, which is a legally binding document that details how all major issues of the divorce have been resolved. A Parenting Plan will also be negotiated during this time, if children are involved. You can – and should – bring an experienced family lawyer to all mediation sessions to ensure that your rights, and your children’s rights, are protected.
- Head To Trial – If major issues cannot be resolved during mediation, the divorce will proceed to a bench trial, which means that a judge – not a jury – will make all final decisions. A divorce trial follows the same rules as any other type of trial; a lawyer can call witnesses, cross examine witnesses, present evidence, and make opening and closing arguments.
- Receive The Final Judgment – The family court judge makes a final ruling on all the major issues of the divorce and orders the judgment to be filed with the Clerk of the Court. Although this is referred to as the Final Judgment, either party can appeal the decision.
Helping You Weather the Storm
The legal actions related to contested and uncontested divorces can be complex. The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire has more than 29 years of experience handling every kind of divorce and is committed to providing compassionate service to help you get through such trying times. Please call 561-655-8844 today, to schedule your legal consultation with Attorney Cheshire.