Divorce Law in Florida has the purpose of dissolving or terminating a marriage with the good of both parties in mind. A divorce is called dissolution of marriage in the court system. It is begun by filing of a petition for dissolution along with a summons.
The petition describes to the court in general terms basic facts about your situation and what you are seeking in the divorce (such as alimony, child support, equitable distribution of the marital property, child custody, temporary support, etc.) There is a filing fee which must be paid to the court for filing the petition.
The summons is a document which accompanies the petition and tells your spouse that he or she has twenty days to respond. It is usually served upon the opposing spouse by formal service of process, either by the sheriff or by a private process server. There is a charge for serving this document and the proof that the process server has served it upon the other spouse is placed in the court file. It is called the return of service.
The next step is information gathering. This can be done informally by the parties themselves or formally by their attorney’s. Formal methods include subpoenas to third parties such as employers or financial institutions, interrogatories (written questions) directed to the next step party, depositions of the other party or third parties, or requests for admissions. These methods are governed by strict rules and deadlines and there are penalties for failing to comply. Informal information gathering is much less costly and time consuming.
A part of information gathering may be the hiring of experts such as psychologists, accountants, appraisals and neutral financial advisors. It is advisable to put together a team to assist you with all aspects of the divorce.
Going To Court
The next step will be going to court and attempting to resolve your differences. This can take as little as a few weeks or as long as two years or more, depending on the levels of cooperation and animosity between the parties and their attorneys. There can be pretrial hearings before the case goes to trial, depending again on the parties and the attorneys involved. Generally, the higher the level of animosity between the parties and their attorneys, the more pretrial hearings there will be and the higher the costs will be. At trial, the court will hear the evidence and make its decision. Dissolution cases are usually tried before the judge without a jury.
Divorce, entered into without competent counsel, can have devastating effects that result in an increase in the time it takes for you and your family members to resume a happy and healthy lifestyle. Its important that you know your legal rights and protections. Spousal support, custody rights, child support, visitation schedules, parental rights, property division, and protection of your assets, even protection of your retirement account, are issues that must be addressed. Even an amicable divorce agreement, drafted by the concerned parties themselves, may omit information that affects their rights and costs each of them for years to come. Many such mistakes can be avoided by consulting an attorney.
This article is for general reference only, and it is not intended to be a substitute for the hiring of an attorney. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.