How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?
Overview of the Divorce Process
Every divorce, just like every family, is unique. While the details of
your individual case will be different from those in any other case, there
are certain deadlines and time frames that must be met. Further, certain
steps must be taken in order to reach the end result of a final decree.
To better prepare you for your own experience, here is a brief outline
of the divorce process:
Filing of petition — The first step in getting a divorce in Florida is to file your petition
for dissolution of marriage with the
family law court. Either you or your spouse may file the petition. There is no advantage
or disadvantage to filing first. In the petition, the filing party will
set out his or her terms for the divorce, including for
child custody and
equitable distribution. To become eligible for filing, you or your spouse must meet the residency
requirements designated by the state. Florida requires that either the
petitioner or respondent have lived within state lines for the past 6
months. To prove residency, you can
- Be physically present in Florida for 6 months
- Prove the intention of residency during that period of time. To prove residency,
you can give testimony, provide a lease agreement on an apartment or home,
or obtain a Florida driver's license.
Response to petition — After the petition has been filed and served, the other spouse has a period
of 20 days in which to prepare and file a response. The response may either accept the terms which were proposed in the original
petition, or it may be a challenge to the petition, with its own counter-claims.
If the respondent does not file a response before the deadline, the petitioning
spouse may request a default be entered, making it possible to win by
a lack of involvement by the other party. Bear in mind, you cannot personally
serve your spouse. This must be done by someone over 18 and doesn't have
a personal agenda within the case. Many people have utilized the services
of a local sheriff or licensed process server.
Temporary hearings — It is possible to schedule a temporary hearing immediately after this 20-day
period, at which either spouse may file a motion for temporary relief.
The goal of pursuing such a motion is to obtain temporary orders or injunctions
concerning the dissipation of finances, possession of the marital home,
alimony payments and child custody and
Additional Paperwork — There are forms available on the
Florida court website that allow you to fill out the following:
- The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act Affidavit
- A financial affidavit with a deadline of 45 days
- A child support guidelines worksheet
Exchange of financial information — The next stage of divorce is a period of mandatory disclosure of financial
information. You and your spouse will both be required to exchange bank
records, tax returns, 401(k)s and other financial statements. As a result,
the attorneys representing both sides will have an opportunity to get
a full and accurate picture of each spouse’s financial situation
in order to pursue action for equitable distribution and payment of child
support and alimony. This can also be seen as the "discovery"
phase, where a financial affidavit must be filed within 45 days of the
original divorce petition. Hidden assets may also be uncovered during
this phase, usually with the help of an experienced attorney.
Alternative dispute resolution — Once everything has been laid out in the open, you and your spouse will
most likely be required to attend
mediation in an attempt to avoid a
contested divorce in the courtroom. In mediation, you and your spouse will meet with a neutral
third party whose role is to facilitate discussion, rather than to advocate
for either party and to assist you and your spouse in the pursuit of an
amicable resolution. Mediation has been shown to not only assist in negotiation,
but to save couples time and money by avoiding a court hearing. Mediation
is not required for those who are victims of domestic violence.
Litigation — In the event that you are unable to resolve the issues in your divorce
through mediation or other out-of-court negotiation strategies, it will
be necessary to go to court for a trial. This is called a contested final
hearing, where both parties will have the opportunity to introduce evidence
and witnesses to convince the judge to rule in their favor. If applicable,
parenting plans will be approved or created by the judge if minor children
are involved. While you and your spouse can create a parenting plan prior
to the trial, the court will ultimately decide on what is in the best
interests of the child. Some aspects that a parenting plan must include are:
- how each parent will share daily tasks involved in raising the child(ren)
- a schedule that details time-sharing
- who will be the primary decision maker for issues regarding healthcare,
schooling, religion, etc.
- how the parents will communicate with the children and tend to their needs
- proof of attendance for parenting class if minor children are involved
(Florida law requirement)
How You Can Speed Up The Process
There is no way to predict with accuracy exactly how long your divorce
will take, given that some divorces are more complex than others. One
of the most important factors that will influence the duration of your
divorce is your engagement with the process and the decisions you make
along the way.
The absolute minimum period of time that a divorce may take is 20 days,
but this only occurs when the parties bring a fully prepared settlement
agreement along with the petition for dissolution, as in an
uncontested divorce, or when one party wins summary judgment against the other. This is called
a "cooling off period", and it's the state's way of giving each
spouse time to reconcile. Most states average a 60-day waiting period,
which doesn't give Florida residents much time to decide on a final decision.
In many cases, the divorce will take much longer. You can greatly improve
your chances of a swift divorce with a minimum of stress by hiring an
experienced divorce lawyer from Anne E. Raduns, P.A.
To schedule a confidential consultation regarding your divorce concerns,
call us at (352) 310-8235. We represent clients in Ocala, The Villages
and throughout Central Florida.