Getting a divorce can be a very stressful experience. Most of the stress comes from the lack of understanding of what the process entails or what the outcome could be. Knowing what to expect during the divorce process will help ease the stress and worry.
Following are the top five (5) questions that we usually encounter with our clients:
1. Are there any prerequisites to filing for divorce?
In Florida, either party must be a resident of the State of Florida for at least six (6) months prior to the filing of the petition for divorce. Florida does not require that you be separated prior to filing. Likewise, it does not matter where you married, so long as you have resided in the State of Florida for at least the six months required.
Please note that you will need to demonstrate your residency by either showing your driver’s license with an issue date of at least six months prior to the date of filing or by an Affidavit wherein a witness can corroborate your residency.
2. How long is the divorce process?
Usually the divorce process is simple. The court already anticipates that the parties should be able to exchange documents and attend mediation within 45 to 90 days. That is why the court usually sets in advance a first case management conference after approximately 45 days to check in with the parties and inquire whether all matters have been resolved. That is why it is key to hire a proactive attorney that will engage in the process, complete the document exchange between the parties promptly and schedule mediation as soon as feasible.
We have had success with many of our cases in obtaining an early resolution and getting the parties divorced quickly so that the parties do not spend a lot in attorney’s fees and costs. Even now during COVID-19 times, our courts are handling hearings by electronic means to keep matters going.
3. What is mediation?
Many of our courts in Florida require that mediation occur before a final hearing. Mediation is an informal meeting. Typically, you and your attorney will be in one room and your spouse and his / her attorney will be in another.
Now with COVID-19 precautions, most of our mediations are handled via Zoom rather than in person but this process has been equally effective.
Please consider that the mediator will be a family law attorney, a retired attorney or a retired judge who is skilled in the mediation process. The mediator will be objective and will not advocate for either side. Mediators are precluded from giving any legal advice and have no judicial authority. Rather, the mediator will assist you and your spouse in effectuating a settlement.
Mediation can take place at any time during your case. Mediation often works best when all of the financial documents have been exchanged and all issues to be litigated have been identified. However, there are exceptions to this general statement.
4. I know about all the finances in our marriage, do we still have to exchange financial documents and financial affidavits?
In some instances, the parties can waive exchanging financial documents (known as Mandatory Disclosures).
Mandatory Disclosures is a procedure whereby financial information is automatically disclosed by the parties upon the filing of a divorce or other family law case. If you are comfortable with your knowledge of your spouse’s finances and if you and the other party agree to waive the requirements of the Mandatory Disclosures, you may file a Waiver of Mandatory Disclosure with the court. However, in Florida you cannot waive the filing of a Financial Affidavit.
The Financial Affidavit is form prescribed by the Florida Supreme Court. It is a sworn document that lists the income, expenses, assets and liabilities for each individual. It is instrumental for all divorces.
5. I have an immediate need for financial assistance from my spouse, do I have to wait until trial to address those issues?
No. If you have an immediate need for relief your attorney can file a Motion for Temporary Relief. Depending on the urgency, your attorney can even file the motion on an expedited basis.
Temporary relief refers to a procedure in a Florida family law case where one side or the other requests the Court order temporary provisions in the early phase of a case. A Temporary relief hearing is normally not held until after mediation.
Temporary provisions may include temporary alimony, child support and even a timesharing (visitation) schedule for the parent and the minor children. In some cases, you may even request an early distribution of marital assets.
Temporary relief is a great opportunity to set some ground rules until the judge has an opportunity to resolve all outstanding issues. In many of our cases, a request for temporary relief is filed early on in the case (sometimes even along with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage) so that these matters are addressed sooner rather than later.
If you have questions about a Florida divorce, Robert Sparks Attorneys is available to help. Contact us to speak with a lawyer about your case, rights, and options.