Divorce in Florida
The official term for Divorce in Florida is “Dissolution of Marriage.” To be granted a Dissolution of Marriage or Divorce in Florida, either spouse can file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition must allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” or in some cases, that the other party is incapacitated. Further, in order for the Court to order or grant the Divorce, at least one spouse must have been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the date of the divorce filing. If neither party has been living in Florida for the six month period prior to filing and no other court will hear the Divorce, some exceptions may allow the Divorce to be granted under Florida law.
Florida is a “no-fault Divorce” state, meaning that the court is not interested in who is to blame or whose fault it is that the couple is divorcing. Of course, the facts of each case are important for other reasons, including alimony, property distribution, child custody and other children’s issues, but proving a “fault” is not necessary to get a Divorce in Florida.
The Divorce Process
A legal divorce begins with the spouse known as the “Petitioner” first filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. A divorce is actually a lawsuit, and a response must be filed by the other spouse, known as the “Respondent,” within twenty days. The Respondent can also file a Counterpetition against the Petitioner, which the Petitioner would then have to answer. Since the court cannot award any relief that is not asked for in the Petition or Counterpetition, it is crucial to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to make sure all your bases are covered from the beginning. The way the divorce process begins often sets the tone moving forward.
After the Petitions and supplemental documents are filed, the parties exchange in “discovery” by submitting various financial and other documents to each other. If there are little to no issues, negotiations can take place early on and it is possible to settle your case quickly and cost effectively. However, most divorces are settled through a process known as mediation. Mediation is a process by which each spouse and their attorneys meet with a neutral, unbiased, third-party who is trained in mediation. During the mediation, all of the relevant issues are put on the table and the mediator helps guide the parties closer to the middle, in an attempt to reach a settlement that everyone can live with.
If the parties fail to come to an agreement before or at mediation, we move forward to a final hearing, or trial. Trial preparation is a necessary part of every case, so that each client is able to present his or her case in the most advantageous way. It is important to have a family lawyer who is not afraid to bring your issues before a judge. However, parties should only move forward with trial after carefully considering the emotional and financial costs of going to trial as compared to the benefits of settling the case.
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