Divorce Means to Legally End a Marriage

The term divorce technically means to end a marriage. Of course, ending the marriage is one of many issues which necessarily arise as result of a divorce. The most common are child custody, alimony and property division. The state of Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state. This means that, unlike in earlier years, neither party need be at fault in order to obtain a divorce. This eliminates the need to air out marital grievances that have no relevance to the issues in the case. For example, if one of the spouses is a terrible housekeeper, this has no relevance to whether the opposing spouse is entitled to a divorce. Everyone in the state of Florida is entitled to a divorce. In some rare instances, if one of the parties has been adjudicated mentally incompetent, a guardianship must be filed before the divorce action to fully protect the rights of the incompetent spouse.

The Other Spouse Cannot Refuse to Get Divorced

As stated above, the opposing spouse cannot refuse to agree to the divorce. Indeed, the consent of the other party is irrelevant to whether the divorce can be finalized. Historically, there were many bars to getting divorced, the consent of the opposing spouse being one of them. This is not the case anymore which results in a more stream-lined procedure for dissolving marriages.

Waiting Period

There is no waiting period or "cooling off" period that must pass before a divorce can be finalized in Florida. In some cases, the parties have already signed a Marital Settlement Agreement before they file their Divorce Petition. In those cases, they must wait 20 days to finalize the divorce unless they can show good cause or an emergency exists which would waive the 20 day requirement. in most cases, however, it takes several months to a year to finalize the divorce depending upon the level of cooperation between the parties. For example, if one party refuses to disclose financial documentation which is necessary to analyze the distribution of assets, that may require one or several hearings before the Judge before the documents are disclosed. This results in longer wait times to obtain the final divorce decree.

The Process

The initial document that is filed with the Court is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition contains important information about the date of marriage, the date of separation, and which issues the parties need the Judge to decide such as child custody, alimony and property distribution. The Petition is accompanied by various documents, the most important of which is the Financial Affidavit. The Affidavit sets forth the parties' income, monthly expenses, and assets and liabilities. This becomes a very important document when the Judge orders child support, alimony or other financial relief. Next, the opposing spouse is "served" with the Petition. This means that a process server or a sheriff hand delivers the document to the other spouse. You cannot serve your spouse with the Petition. In some situations, however, the opposing party will sign a paper which allows them to accept the documents without the necessity of being "served".

Next, the opposing party has 20 days to respond to the Petition and file their own Petition which is called a Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Counter-Petition sets forth what the opposing party wants the Judge to decide just like the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Within 45 days of filing, both parties must exchange financial information unless they waive the right to exchange the information. The information consists of tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements and other similar financial documents. The documents only go back 3 to 12 months. If further financial documentation is required, your attorney can request such documents.

The next step, after financial disclosure is to attempt to mediate the issues, and if that process fails, the parties attend a divorce trial where the Judge makes a determination of all the issues. The Judge renders an Order resolving all of the outstanding issues which is called the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. Once the Final Judgment is finished, the parties are officially divorced. Talk with your attorney at Marsh Family Law about questions regarding this process and what your attorney can do to obtain the best possible results for you and your family.

What is the difference between a "Contested" Divorce and an "Uncontested" Divorce?

Many people are able to fully resolve all of their issues pursuant to a Marital Settlement Agreement. This is called an "Uncontested Divorce" since the parties are not contesting any of the provisions regarding their Dissolution of Marriage. To be able to resolve all issues between the parties is the best possible scenario for both parties and the minor children, if any. Typically, however, uncontested divorces occur when there are no minor children and no property to divide.

Conversely, when there are any unresolved and contested issues as a result of the Dissolution of Marriage, this is called a "Contested Divorce". This means that the parties were unable to agree upon some issues regarding Custody, Time-Sharing, Alimony, Child Support, or Property Division, to name a few.

Life After Divorce

In some cases, one or both of the parties wishes to contest the provisions contained in the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This is called an Appeal and is decided by the next higher court of jurisdiction called the Appellate Court. If you are in a situation in which you need to file an Appeal, talk with the lawyers of Marsh Family Law about the different ways in which you can Appeal your Final Judgment. In other cases, the terms of the Final Judgment need to be modified. Such issues include, child support modification, alimony modification and child custody or visitation modification. There is very specific criteria which must be met before such Final Judgments may be modified. Talk with your attorney if you are in need of a modification to see if your case meets the standards which are necessary for such modification.

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