A Divorce Timeline: What to Expect
If you are getting ready to go through the divorce process, it may be difficult to know what to expect. The path to divorce can be complicated and stressful, but having a rough idea of what is ahead can help ease your mind. Consider this timeline of the divorce process a helpful road map for the future ahead:
- To begin, one spouse files a petition for divorce (called “dissolution of marriage” in the state of Florida) with the court. This petition is a legal document explaining the reasons for the divorce and generally also includes a proposal of how the spouse intends to settle various issues like the division of property and child custody. While there are standard boilerplate divorce petitions available online, the best, most efficient, and least risky way to begin divorce proceedings is to retain an attorney to assist with legal filings like this.
- The petition is served by either a process server or local sheriff’s office to the other spouse, along with a requirement that he or she respond to it within a given period of time. The served spouse can agree with the petition/complaint or he or she can disagree and make different proposals for making divorce decisions. At this time, it is always wise for the served spouse to retain an attorney to protect his or her rights and interests in court, especially if the other party has representation already.
- In Florida, the filing spouse at this point is required to draft a financial affidavit, a legal document stating and containing documentation for income, worth, credit card and financial statements, and other related numbers. The other spouse may also gather this information, to be used by the two parties and the court to make decisions about property division and child custody, as well as spousal and child support.
- Next, parties voluntarily resolve the contested issues mentioned above (if they can). Mediation provides the parties a setting to do this, and ideally, the couple is able to draft a settlement agreement reasonable to both parties. If they can, a judge reviews the agreement at a hearing and (usually) approves it, issuing a divorce decree.
- If the parties cannot come to an agreement, or if the judge denies the settlement, the case goes to trial. There, the court considers all of the financial documentation and other evidence available and the judge decides any of the issues still in dispute, granting the divorce. While either spouse can appeal the judge’s decision, appeals courts rarely overturn judge’s rulings on settlement agreements.
While knowing what to expect can be helpful in navigating your divorce, having the assistance of a divorce or family attorney can be invaluable to ensuring that the settlement agreement that eventually binds you correctly represents your rights and interests. Even if you anticipate that your divorce will be amicable or simple, the help of an attorney can ensure that legal filings, court appearances, and deadlines all go smoothly. If you are beginning the path to divorce, contact Schwartz l White in Boca Raton at 561-391-9943 today for a consultation.