The amount of time it takes to finalize a divorce in Florida depends on the degree to which you and your ex agree on the terms of your separation — who will have custody of any children, how property and debt should be divided, etc. The more issues you and your spouse agree on, the more efficient the process can be.
An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses agree on all issues prior to litigation. These cases take the shortest amount of time to finalize and can be completed in as little as three to six months. The attorney who drafts the agreement can prepare it quickly, and the parties can execute it shortly after.
Since agreeing with your spouse on everything in a divorce is rare, a contested divorce is much more common, where it is initiated by one party and “served” on the other spouse. These cases take longer because the parties must come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce. Depending on how contentious the divorce is, contested cases could take several months to a year or more and require multiple court hearings. The process for a contested divorce generally looks like this:
Divorce proceedings are initiated when you file a petition to end your marriage. Florida is a no-fault divorce state, so you don’t have to provide grounds for your divorce. Stating that your marriage is “irretrievably broken” is enough.
You might also seek temporary orders when filing the petition for divorce to keep things moving as smoothly as possible during the proceedings. For example, you might request orders to decide child custody and visitation, the living situation of each spouse during the divorce, and the split of finances.
After the petition is filed, you can begin building your case. You and your spouse will exchange documents and information and share them with the court during discovery. This includes disclosing all of your assets, property, and financial records. Discovery lays the groundwork for these assets to be divided later, and it is against the law for either spouse to conceal assets or other relevant information during this step. If you suspect your spouse isn’t being forthcoming, hiring investigators and financial experts to discover the truth could be necessary.
You and your spouse should try to sort out the terms of your divorce as much as possible before heading to trial. The more you can agree on, the more efficient the process.
If you have children, you’ll have to decide where your kids will live and how they’ll be supported. This can be done before trial, but establishing a co-parenting plan can take time.
A judge may order any contested divorce in Florida to go to mediation before trial, especially in cases where child custody is disputed. In mediation, spouses can discuss their issues and concerns and attempt to resolve the dispute with the help of a neutral, impartial guide known as a mediator. The mediator’s role isn’t to decide the outcome of the conflict but to help the divorcing couple generate possible solutions, clarify areas of agreement and disagreement, and keep proceedings moving.
Mediations are private and confidential in most cases. If you can settle all your disputes in mediation rather than trial, your divorce proceedings can be significantly shortened.
If the couple cannot reach an agreement with their lawyers and a mediator’s assistance, they will go to trial to finalize their divorce. Both sides will present their arguments and evidence to a judge. If many contested issues need to be decided at trial, this step can be lengthy, spanning months or even a couple of years. The court may also have a high case volume, causing scheduling issues that can delay things further.
After hearing the whole case, the judge will make a final decision on any issues that still need to be settled.
If you’ve decided to seek divorce in Florida, don’t hesitate to get an experienced legal advocate on your side. An attorney will answer your questions and address your concerns regarding how long your divorce will take, minimizing the burden of the process on your shoulders.
941 Law Help is here to answer your questions and ease your worries in a difficult time. Hiring an attorney helps to keep court time to a minimum during a divorce.