In Florida divorce is called “dissolution of marriage” and it is the process by which the marriage is dissolved and assets are divided. If children are involved, other issues such as time-sharing, aka custody, child support, and parenting issues will be decided.
Florida is a No-Fault divorce state, which means you don’t have to have a specific reason or attribute fault to one person. All that is required is that one party claims that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”. There must be actual testimony of this for a Judge to divorce you.
To initiate a divorce, one must file a petition for dissolution of marriage. The filing of the petition is what opens the case and gets the ball rolling. The petition must then be served on the opposing party. Once service is complete, the other party usually files an answer or a counter-petition. The parties will then beginning the Discovery process. The Discovery process is key to any cases and it consists of both parties exchanging information. The most important piece of discovery is usually the financial affidavit. This is an affidavit that is sworn to by each party. It includes income, debts, assets, and living expenses. In addition to the financial affidavit, there is something called “Mandatory Disclosures”. These are documents and records that each side must produce if they are available.The discovery process should be complete before proceeding to mediation or trial because it will form the basis for the distribution of assets.
Mediation is required for most divorce cases. Mediation is a way for the parties to resolve the case without going before a judge. Mediation is usually helpful and many cases are resolved at mediation which saves time and money. If a full agreement is reached at mediation, the parties will not have to go to trial and the Judge can sign off on the agreement if it meets the requirements of Florida law. A partial agreement can also be reached, leaving the remaining issues to be decided at trial.
In many cases, the parties may never step into a courtroom. In other more contentious cases, hearings will be necessary. Some judges require the parties or the attorneys for the parties to attend a case management conference. This is a proceedural hearing only and no evidence will be heard. It is basically an opportunity for the Judge to keep track of the case and move the case along.
Going through a divorce can seem overwhelming and many people have misconceptions about the law and what their rights are. That is why it is important to have an attorney represent you when going through this difficult time. Divorce can be civil if both parties have reasonable expectations and agree to follow the law and do what is in the best interest of the children.