What are the First Steps in Getting a Divorce in Florida?
Divorce is a complex legal process that many often know little about until they consider it an option. Prior to beginning the journey, you want to make sure you understand what to expect. Without a notion of where to start, you may be faced with several questions. If you’re considering a divorce, Brian K. McMahon, P.A., Attorney at Law, can provide the information you need and help you confidently begin this process.
Complete Your Divorce Papers and File Your Forms
In Florida, there are two different ways to file for divorce. You and your spouse can seek a simplified dissolution of marriage or a regular dissolution of marriage. Spouses may seek a simplified dissolution of marriage or uncontested divorce if they agree on the division of property, do not have children, and are not seeking alimony. In a regular dissolution of marriage or a contested divorce, spouses are unable to reach an agreement on the division of marital debt, property, and issues surrounding child custody and visitation.
Once you’ve considered the circumstances of your case and determined whether to file for a regular dissolution or a simplified dissolution, you’ll need to complete the necessary divorce papers and file your completed and signed paperwork with the clerk’s office. The court filing will either be in the county where you or your spouse lives. The clerk will give you a copy of the forms, and you should keep them in a safe place. Having an additional copy to give to your spouse is also recommended.
Serving Your Petition
Unless you choose to file for a simplified dissolution of marriage, you will need to “serve” the petition paperwork to your spouse. Serving your spouse can be done in one of several ways. If you and your spouse have an amicable relationship and the divorce is uncontested, your spouse can agree to accept the service of the petition by completing and filing a “Waiver of Service.” The sheriff’s office of the county where your spouse resides can also deliver the papers, or they will often appoint special process servers to deliver them.
Once the process server delivers a copy of the petition, they will file a sworn affidavit that says the petition was “served.” After your spouse has been served, they will have 20 days to file a response from when the papers are served. The answer will often include a counter-petition where they will outline what they agree with or deny and may also include additional matters they wish to present in court. If your spouse fails to file an answer within 20 days, you can file a “Motion for Default” requesting that the divorce go through without your spouse’s participation.
The Discovery Process
A divorce filing in Florida requires all information that would be used in the case and of interest to the judge to be visible, exchanged between spouses, and available on request. Each spouse must provide some basic financial documents to the other and exchange financial affidavits. After the basic mandatory disclosure, you or your spouse can request a more intensive list of documents.
As long as the request is related to the case, asking for almost anything is fair game. The requested documents must be provided within 30 days of the request. The discovery process is one of the most crucial steps in the divorce process, and during this process, your divorce attorney will ensure the courts have all the necessary information and gather any other additional key information if needed.
When an agreement has yet to be reached, or certain issues with the petition still need to be solved, you can count on going to mediation. In fact, before going any further in your case, you will need to attend at least one mediation.
Mediation is a meeting, typically lasting between 3-5 hours, between spouses, attorneys, and an appointed mediator. The goal of mediation is to try and resolve disputes in a divorce case and reach a settlement agreement. A divorce attorney can help select a mediator, schedule mediation, and then represent your rights and opinions during the mediation.
If you and your spouse cannot settle your case, the proceedings will need to go to trial. Your divorce attorney will represent your rights and interests in front of a judge by presenting evidence and cross-examining any witnesses that take the stand. As soon as the trial has concluded, the judge will make a final decision, and if you feel the decision is unfair, you can appeal and request a new hearing.
We’re committed to Getting the Best Possible Outcome For Your Divorce
Our Florida divorce attorney, Brian K. McMahon, P.A., is passionate about helping clients through challenging times and is prepared to work aggressively to obtain an equitable outcome. If you’re considering a divorce, give us a call at 561-658-7789 or reach out to us online to schedule a complimentary consultation today.