How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced in Florida?
Understanding FL Divorce Timelines
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.
What is the Process of Divorce in Ocala, FL?
To better prepare you for your own experience, here is a brief outline of the divorce process
1. Filing the 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 visitation, alimony, 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 child support.
4. Additional Paperwork
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
5. 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.
6. 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.
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)
The Minimum Amount of Time Spent in the FL Divorce Process
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.
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.
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.
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