Few things cause as much pain and despair as being served divorce papers by your spouse. The good news—and bad news—is that you aren’t going through it alone, as thousands of your fellow Floridians are experiencing the same thing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the divorce rate has gone down by two points over the last 10 years in Florida, but it still remains higher than the national average.
If you’re just beginning the divorce process, you’ve likely got a number of questions and concerns that you need answered. Chief among them is probably, “Will I have to go to court if my spouse files for divorce?” Unfortunately, there’s not a definite answer to this, and the divorce process will look different for every couple. If you’d like to speak with an experienced divorce attorney in Florida, reach out to Veliz Katz Law today to discuss your options. From his offices in Orlando, Florida, David W. Veliz can help clients throughout central Florida including Kissimmee, Winter Park, and Maitland.
Deciding Type of Divorce
If you and your spouse can still communicate with one another and agree on some basics, you can typically avoid going to court. However, this isn’t always the case. In general, divorces can be divided into one of three categories: contested, uncontested, and collaborative.
- Contested: When the two spouses cannot come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce, it’s considered contested. This often happens when one spouse files for divorce, serves the other papers, and the receiving spouse disagrees with the terms laid out. This usually, but not always, requires going to court. In some cases, the receiving spouse can work with their lawyer to negotiate and come to an agreement outside of the courtroom.
- Uncontested: In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all the issues and it’s unlikely their case will go to court. This is more common with shorter marriages, marriages with very few joint assets, and marriages where the couple does not have children. However, it is possible to have an uncontested divorce if you both agree on child custody, asset division, and alimony.
- Collaborative: Somewhere between a contested and uncontested divorce lies a collaborative divorce. This is a legal process that seeks to reduce court fees by having both spouses work together with the aid of their attorneys or a mediator to negotiate and come to agreements about their divorce. This method can save time and money, but both spouses must be willing to work together. Typically, those who go through a collaborative divorce can avoid going to court.
The Florida Divorce Process
Depending on your circumstances this process may look slightly different, but in general, you can expect the following when going through a divorce (called a “dissolution of marriage”) in Florida. You may be able to qualify for a “simplified dissolution of marriage” if you have no joint children, agree on your division of assets, and no one will be seeking alimony. For all others, you may need to pursue a “regular dissolution of marriage.”
The first step is to file a petition with the court. This can be done by either spouse in the county where the couple lives, or where one spouse currently lives. Whoever receives the petition then has 20 days to respond. If the respondent agrees to all the terms laid out, it will be an uncontested divorce—but they are also able to file a counter-petition contesting any part of it or denying a claim made by their spouse. Both spouses will then typically need to file additional paperwork and provide documentation to the court such as tax returns, W-2s, and bank statements which will be shared with both parties. Most counties will then make the couple go through mediation to see if a negotiation can be reached outside the courtroom. If it cannot, then your case may go to trial.
How Long the Divorce Process Takes
The entire divorce process can happen in one month for a simplified dissolution, but complex cases can take upwards of a year or two. Even in the shortest cases, there is still a mandatory 20-day waiting period after filing before a judge will approve your divorce. This all depends on the specifics of your case and how quickly you can come to an agreement with your spouse on assets, child custody and support, alimony, and more. Working with a family law attorney can help speed up the process.
Legal Guidance You Can Trust
Divorces are hard, but you don’t have to go through them alone. You need someone with experience and compassion to guide you through this difficult time. If you’re in the Orlando, Florida area and are concerned that your divorce might end up in court, Veliz Katz Law can help. Call today to schedule a one-on-one consultation.