The Divorce Process Explained by a Lawyer
Posted in Lawyers on February 17, 2017
The divorce rate in Florida is OUT OF CONTROL! The breakdown of the family unit in Florida and all other states will be the demise of our great country. What a shame!
If your marriage is IRRETRIEVABLY BROKEN you are entitled to get a Florida divorce – no if’s and’s or but’s about it. The goal should be to get in and out of the process known as Florida divorce court as quickly and cost effectively as possible. However, if you want to waste time and burn through the family fortune, believe me when I say that there are thousands of Florida lawyers ready to assist you in that endeavor.
There are two types of divorce in Florida:
- Simplified Divorce
- Regular Dissolution Of Marriage – Uncontested or Contested.
The simplified divorce is only for those couples who meet the following conditions or rules:
- There are no children of the couple under 18 years of age.
- The wife should not be pregnant.
- One of the spouses must have lived in Florida for at least six months.
- Both the spouses must agree on the division of property and debts.
- Both sides agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- Both parties MUST appear at the final hearing.
This process is not as simplified as people think and simplified petitions are not generally filed. There are other, more efficient, methods to accomplish the same thing – FLORIDA DIVORCE – with the added bonus that neither party needs to appear in court.
REGULAR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE:
- Parties are in agreement on all issues – division of property and debt and child-related issues, if any.
- One party Florida resident for at least 6 months.
- Both parties execute all required Florida divorce documents including, but not limited to, Florida financial affidavits.
- No kids = No court.
- Kids = we can keep you out of court but it is not recommended – call and ask why.
- No agreement on ALL issues.
- Filing of petition and service of spouse.
- The non-petitioning spouse has 20 days to respond from the date they are served with Florida divorce papers.
- No response = default and case set for final hearing – if no kids or property – a five minute hearing at the courthouse. If kids or property, a 15-30 minute hearing at the courthouse.
- If response filed – exchange financial information –tax returns, bank statements, etc. – and the case is set for a settlement conference (i.e., mediation). Most cases settle here. If so, an agreement is prepared and signed on the spot. It will be filed with the court and a final hearing will be set about a week later.
- If no agreement is reached at the mediation, the case will be set for a final hearing or trial in front of the judge assigned to the case. This rarely happens as most cases settle at mediation, unless of course your lawyer convinces you not to settle. Remember, its your case, your life, your money – make an informed decision and do not be bullied by anyone.
Dividing Marital Assets
All property or debt acquired during the marriage is usually marital property, although there are exceptions to this, and most other general rules. You can divide it any way you wish. If you can’t do it on your own, in all likelihood the court will make equal piles out of each and send you on your way.
Custody of the Child or Children
Florida no longer uses the term custody although many non-lawyers still do. We understand what you mean. Instead, Florida uses the concept of a parenting plan and deals with 4 primary issues:
- Parental responsibility: Usually parents will have shared responsibility and have an equal say in major decisions – health, education, religion, etc. Sometimes, not often, if there is a compelling reason, the court may order sole parental responsibility. There must be a compelling reason to do so.
- Legal address: For school registration purposes only.
- Timesharing: When the child(ren) will be with each parent, including, but not limited to, birthdays, holidays, etc. The court wants as detailed a schedule as possible to avoid future trips to the courthouse.
- Child Support: MUST be calculated in every case with children and is based upon (1) each parties income, (2) certain child-related expenses (daycare, health insurance, etc.) and the number of nights per year that each parent has the child(ren).
Characteristics of a Great Lawyer
Lawyers MUST listen to client’s needs and provide information so that the client can make informed decisions. A lawyers job is to tell client what they NEED to know, NOT what they want to hear. Unfortunately, many do the latter.
A competent Fort lauderdale divorce lawyer MUST know the law that includes the Florida statutes, Florida rules of family court and the case law (i.e., how appellate courts have interpreted or applied the law to certain facts). Though every case is different, the case law gives us a very good insight into what will happen should the case go to trial.
Look, the process is not pretty if you are litigating a case. Like the song says – “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Bottom line is that there are unknowns that go into handling any case including a Florida divorce case. Make sure your lawyer possesses the requisite ability to get to the “heart of the matter’ quickly and cost effectively. If not, you will get frustrated and look for a new lawyer. Ask questions and, more importantly, make sure you understand the answers. No legal mumbo/jumbo. Plain English is always best!