While each Florida divorce is unique to the individuals experiencing it, there are some common characteristics that apply to all divorces. For instance, most divorces go through the same basic divorce process. Understanding what happens during each phase of the Florida divorce process can help you be better prepared for those experiences, which in turn can help you emerge from divorce more successfully.
Deciding on Divorce
There is no formula you can fill out to figure out if divorce is right for you or not. It is a deeply personal decision that requires a great deal of thought. However, if you are considering divorce, then determining whether or not divorce is right for you is likely the first step. Whether you explore this option individually or with your spouse, keep in mind that open communication is a key component of successfully emerging from divorce and it is important to work with your spouse on as many aspects of your divorce as possible.
Once you have made the difficult decision to pursue divorce, you will need to start gathering important information that will be required throughout the divorce process. This will take some time as you will need to collect a lot of information, especially financial information. You should begin collecting as much financial information as possible, including bank and credit card statements. You will also need tax returns for you and your spouse, potentially for up to five years. As you begin to collect all of this information, you will realize that there is a great deal of paperwork involved. You will want to keep it organized in a logical fashion to help expedite processes dependent upon it, which can save you time and money in the long run.
If you own a business either independently or with your spouse, you will need to collect financial information related to your business, too. It is important to discuss the future of your business after divorce so that you and your spouse can prepare for how divorce will impact your business and so that you can make appropriate decisions about buying out your spouse, selling your share of the business, or even selling or ceasing the business altogether. It is best to keep this information separate from your personal financial information, too.
Petitioning for Divorce
After your initial visit with an experienced Florida family law attorney that focuses on issues surrounding divorce, you will find out more about what steps you need to take to continue the Florida divorce process. Usually, the first step will be petitioning a Florida court in the appropriate county for divorce. It does not really matter who files the petition for divorce, although in some situations there could be advantages to one spouse filing first, and your divorce attorney can help you understand those situations. Keep in mind that whether you are petitioning for divorce or have received a petition for divorce, the terms contained within that document will change throughout the divorce process, so it is important not to get sidetracked by them. Ultimately, a judge must approve your divorce settlement regardless of how your settlement is reached. The petition for divorce is important, but it will not necessarily set the terms of your divorce. If you have filed the petition for divorce, you will need to serve your spouse with divorce papers according to the rules of service in the county in which the divorce petition has been filed. Generally, a spouse then has 20 days to answer the petition.
Mandatory Financial Disclosures
After a petition for divorce has been filed, you will need to provide complete financial disclosures to your spouse, his or her attorney, and the court. These disclosures are mandatory, and can sometimes seem almost intrusive. However, it is important to be honest in your financial disclosures as responding otherwise may not only qualify as a crime in some cases but can also extend the period of time your divorce will take.
To complete your financial disclosure, you will likely need to file a financial affidavit that lists all of your assets. This includes any personal or jointly held assets, debts, income, expenses, and other liabilities. While you and your spouse may be able to communicate effectively enough to negate the importance of these disclosures, you will still need to file a financial affidavit.
This is a broad term that refers to the process of discovering information that can help your case in court. You may find it necessary to subpoena certain information that could impact your divorce, especially in situations where your spouse is not willing to provide such information. There are a number of different reasons to employ various discovery techniques in a Florida divorce that your Florida divorce attorney can explain to you in more detail.
Negotiation and Mediation
You are not required to negotiate the terms of your divorce settlement with your spouse, though you are encouraged to do so, and arriving at your own agreement can save time and money. However, the court does require you to attempt to come to an agreement during mediation. Many couples are able to come to an agreement on the terms of their divorce settlement during the mediation process. However, there are some circumstances in which this is not possible. In such cases, you will need to attend a case management conference. During this conference, you will be able to present any agreements you have come up with as well as any issues on which you and your spouse cannot agree.
Final or Pretrial Hearing
If mediation has been successful at helping you iron out the details of your divorce settlement, you will likely move to a final trial where you will present your agreement to the court and a judge will review it to determine if it meets important legal standards and addresses issues the court requires it to address. If mediation has not been successful, you will probably need to attend a pretrial hearing where the judge will hear any outstanding issues and determine how much time might be needed for trial while addressing any other outstanding issues.
When you get to the final trial, the judge will review your settlement if you were able to arrive at one. If mediation was not successful and the court will determine important issues, then you will find out what the court has determined to be a fair settlement for your divorce. These decisions affect everything from asset division to child custody, so whenever possible it is best to try and determine the terms appropriate for you and your spouse without involving the court. Regardless of which route your divorce takes, and experienced Florida divorce attorney can help you make sure you do not have to face the process alone. Contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation where you can find out more about how Florida divorce could ultimately affect you and your family.