Even when the decision to end a marriage is the right one, the divorce process can be complicated, drawn out, and emotionally taxing. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through it alone. Florida Law Advisers, P.A., is ready to be your advocate, support system, and legal guide. You can count on us to prioritize your needs and protect your rights as we seek a satisfactory conclusion to your case.
Ready to find out what our team can do for you? Then call us for a free consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer in St. Petersburg to get started.
What Are the Steps for Filing for Divorce in Florida?
There are three types of divorce in Florida, each of which has its own steps that must be followed.
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on the pertinent issues, such as:
- Child custody and visitation if they share children
- How to divide marital assets and debts
- Spousal support/alimony
Getting an uncontested divorce requires these steps:
- Filing the Petition – The process begins when one spouse completes and files the divorce petition with the court.
- Serving the Papers – The county sheriff or a process server will deliver the petition and the attached documentation directly to the other spouse, who is called the responding spouse.
- Answering the Petition – The responding spouse must file their answer to the petition within 20 days.
- Filing Disclosures – Each spouse must file a family law financial affidavit within 45 days after service of the petition. The filing spouse can file the affidavit at the same time they file the initial petition. The affidavit isn’t necessary if they have a written agreement settling their finances and don’t have minor children.
- Scheduling a Hearing – The petitioning spouse should request a hearing by contacting the court clerk. The hearing will be before a judge who must ensure everything is in order before issuing the final divorce judgment.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
A simplified dissolution of marriage is a more streamlined process of divorce in Florida. You can file for simplified dissolution if neither of you contests the divorce and you meet the following requirements:
- There are no minor or dependent children from the marriage
- You are willing to attend the final court hearing
- You agree that saving the marriage isn’t possible
- No one requests alimony
- You are willing to give up the right to a trial and appeal
- You are willing to sign the petition in the court clerk’s office
- You are satisfied with the property and debt division agreement
Neither spouse has to serve the divorce petition and wait for the other spouse to file their answer with the court. Either the court clerk will set the hearing date or you will request one, depending on the county where you file.
A contested divorce means the spouses disagree about issues that must be resolved before the divorce is finalized, such as alimony, property division, or child custody. The process requires a judge to intervene and resolve the disputes.
Judges often schedule mandatory mediation for the couple to attempt to settle outside of court. If unsuccessful, the judge will decide on the contested issues.
If you are concerned about how to file or apply for divorce in Florida, a St. Petersburg family law attorney can help you determine the best route to take given your particular situation.
How Long Does a Florida Divorce Take to Complete?
State law requires a 20-day waiting period between the date of filing the petition and when the court might enter a final judgment. However, the timeframe of your divorce will depend in part on the type you file.
You might be able to schedule a final hearing date within 30 days of filing a simplified dissolution of marriage. An uncontested divorce is also relatively efficient but takes longer than a simplified dissolution. Depending on how long it takes to serve the papers and wait for a filed answer, you can finalize an uncontested divorce in a few months.
The duration of a contested divorce is significantly longer and depends on how long it takes to file paperwork, negotiate a settlement, and wait for a trial date. Many contested divorces are resolved in around six months, while others take a year or longer.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce?
Technically, you can represent yourself during divorce proceedings. However, self-representation is risky. Emotions can take over, cloud your judgment, and cause mistakes. You might encounter unnecessary delays or make avoidable errors that negatively affect the outcome of your case.
The process of how to get a divorce in Florida can be time-consuming and complex. An experienced and skilled St. Petersburg divorce attorney can provide the legal guidance and advice you need to protect your interests. They can inform you of what to expect and take on the responsibility of complicated paperwork and other tasks. Securing legal counsel can streamline the divorce and lead to a better outcome than you could attain on your own.
How to Prepare for Your First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney
An initial consultation with a St. Petersburg divorce attorney gives you a chance to determine whether they have the qualifications and traits you want in legal counsel. You can also use that time to ask questions, address your concerns, and learn about the divorce procedure in Florida.
Use the following steps to make the most of your meeting.
Put Your Thoughts on Paper
Write down basic details for the initial consultation. It can reduce time and allow you to focus on other information while discussing your case with the lawyer. You should include your name, address, contact information, birth date, marriage date, and Social Security number. You can also provide your spouse’s information. If you have kids, include their names and birth dates.
Identify The issues
You should inform the lawyer of the problems related to the case, such as disagreements over alimony, property division, and child custody. Apprise them of your position and whether you and your spouse settled on any of these aspects of the divorce.
Organize Vital Documents
You should bring relevant financial information and documents to the meeting, such as income, childcare costs, assets, and debts. These can give the attorney an overall idea of each person’s financial situation.
Explain Your Goals
You likely know what you want from the divorce. Identify your goals so the attorney can advise you of the available options and whether your goals are realistic. They might explain the type of divorce you should file and how they can help you achieve your goals.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the process and forget the questions you want to ask during the consultation. Write down your questions beforehand, and don’t be afraid to ask them so you feel prepared for what’s ahead.
What Should I Consider in Divorce?
Preparing for your divorce and gathering the necessary documentation can help streamline an often-complicated process. Whether you’re about to file or have already filed, these are the aspects you should consider:
- Seek Support – Even an amicable divorce can become problematic. You should turn to your close family and friends for emotional support during this difficult experience.
- Hire a Lawyer – You’re not obligated to hire an attorney, but it’s a good idea to do so regardless. A St. Petersburg divorce lawyer can guide you through each step, help you make informed decisions, and protect your rights during divorce proceedings.
- Determine Details of Your Separation – While you are not required to go through a legal separation period before divorce in Florida, many couples prefer to live apart as they seek the end of their marriage. If you’d prefer to live separately, you should decide on living arrangements and who should pay for what until the divorce is final.
- Create a List of Your Belongings – You and your spouse likely own property together and separately. Note each asset and its value. You should also gather documentation related to your property, such as bank statements, mortgages, and life insurance policies.
- Organize Legal Documents – Keep copies of any legal documents related to your marriage, such as a marriage license, prenuptial agreement, and tax returns, in a folder for easy reference.
- Discuss a Schedule for Your Kids – If you and your spouse share children, decide on a custody and visitation schedule until you finalize the divorce. Requesting a temporary court order might be necessary if you can’t agree to a plan.