Phases of a Contested Florida Divorce
A contested divorce is one where the spouses are unable to reach an agreement on one or more issues related to their divorce. It can be child custody, spousal support, division of assets, or any other topic. A contested divorce will take longer than an uncontested one to resolve.
Despite what you may hear or see on television, non-attorneys cannot give you legal advice. Only a licensed Florida divorce attorney has the legal authority to tell you how to proceed with your divorce. If you have questions on what you should do and how a contested divorce will work, contact the team at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White.
Here is a general overview of how a contested divorce will progress in Florida.
Filing the Divorce Petition and Answer
The divorce, or dissolution of marriage, begins once the divorce petition is filed. This will be done in a circuit court where both spouses last lived, or where one lives now. There are residency requirements you must meet before you can file for divorce in Florida. On the petition, it must indicate that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” followed by an explanation of what you are asking the court for. The person who files for divorce is known as the petitioner.
The spouse who was served with the petition is known as the respondent and has 20 days to file their response. The respondent will answer by explaining what they agree and don’t agree with and what they admit is true and/or what they deny.
There will be additional paperwork that must be filed with the court as well. This can include a financial affidavit. If you have children, there will be child support and custody documents that you need to include as well.
Discovery is the main part of the divorce and it’s where you file your disclosures and evidence like tax returns, bank statements, etc. Discovery is the phase where both spouses have the right to ask the other side for proof related to their finances. You can be required to produce other documentation and even answer questions under oath.
There is a good chance that you will be required to go through an alternative dispute resolution process like mediation in hopes of reaching an agreement on the various issues you are unable to agree to on your own. There may be exceptions to the requirement for mediation, including for victims of domestic violence.
Parenting plans will also be discussed, as the court must approve any plan you agreed upon on your own, or the court will enter its own plan when there is a divorce with minor children involved.
The trial is essentially the final hearing where a judge will hear your case. There is no jury in a divorce trial. You and your ex may finally agree on everything and can file a marital settlement agreement for dissolution of marriage. Otherwise, the judge will hear from both sides before making a final ruling.
After the trial, there may be additional steps like post-trial motions and appeals in certain cases.
Retaining a Florida Divorce Attorney
If you have questions about contested divorce, contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White in Florida at 561-391-9943 to schedule a consultation.