How Divorce Works In Florida
The Process: A divorce is often one of the most stressful and emotionally traumatic situations a human being will ever go through. It is important to know what to expect and how long the process could potentially take.
Time Frame: A divorce begins upon the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and ends upon the entry of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This process, from beginning to end, can take as little as two weeks and as long as two years. The average divorce action takes approximately three to six months to resolve. The average post-dissolution matter also takes approximately three to six months to resolve.
Initial consultation: This is the first time the client and the attorney meet. It is imperative that the attorney carefully listen to the client at this meeting and assess what it is the client expects. It is equally important that the attorney advise the client how the law will likely apply to the facts of their case and whether their expectations are reasonable. It is at this meeting that the attorney and client should formulate their strategy going forward and begin the process of gathering documents for mandatory financial disclosure.
Financial Disclosure: Parties to most family law matters (divorce, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements and modification/enforcement actions) must exchange financial disclosure. These documents consist of financial affidavits wherein the parties list their income, monthly bills and expenses, assets and liabilities. Each party must also produce tax returns, credit card statements, bank statements, and other documents.
Other Forms of Discovery: In some cases, it is necessary to hire certain experts and take the depositions of these individuals prior to going to mediation and/or trial. The parties may also have their depositions taken.
Mediation: Most family law disputes settle in Mediation. Mediation is an informal or formal meeting in which the parties and their attorneys meet and attempt to settle their case with the help of a Mediator. The Mediator is a neutral third party who is either an attorney or retired Judge with family law expertise. If an agreement is reached at Mediation, a Marital Settlement Agreement is prepared and signed by the parties that very day. Thereafter, the Agreement is filed with the Court and a Final Judgment of Dissolution is entered dissolving the marriage.
Trial: Trials can be very stressful and very expensive. However, trials are necessary in some cases. In matters in which the parties have attempted, unsuccessfully, to settle their case at Mediation, a judge will hear the evidence presented by the parties and will make a decision regarding all disputed matters. The judges’ decision will be in the form of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
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