Perhaps you are separated and expected to be served with a petition for divorce, or have been having marital difficulties and did not expect it. Nonetheless, you have now been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and you are unsure what to do next. If you have, you should at the very least do the following three things:
First, consult with an attorney. You only have twenty days to respond to the documents you have been served with. Therefore, it is imperative that you understand what your rights are in the dissolution process. More importantly, it is imperative that you understand what remedies your spouse is seeking in order to appropriately respond to the petition and protect your interests. If you fail to respond, a default may be entered against you and thus, the remedy sought by your spouse will be granted. Do not contact your spouse in anger, now is not the best moment to discuss the divorce. Rather, engage in the legal process so that your rights are protected and matters are moving forward smoothly. After meeting with the attorney you must then decide whether you will hire an attorney to represent you or whether you will represent yourself.
Second, start compiling the documents related to the issues you will need to address in the divorce. Start reviewing your assets and liabilities. From there, collect records of all assets, amounts owed, property owned and business records if applicable. If you know that child timesharing will be an issue, start compiling a list of witnesses that can help you explain to the court why it is in the best interest of the child that you be awarded certain amount of time with your child. Be proactive. You may not want to deal with these issues but addressing them early can make all the difference in the world. Eventually, you will need to engage in 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. You will also need to file a Financial Affidavit which is a sworn document that lists the income, expenses, assets and liabilities for each individual. It is instrumental for all divorces. By compiling the documents now, you will have them ready to go when due.
Third, once you have filed your answer, work on scheduling mediation and the final hearing. In most jurisdictions in Florida, mediation is required before you are able to schedule 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 telephone and / or Zoom rather than in person but has been equally effective. Mediation is an outstanding opportunity to settle the details your divorce. If you are unable to reach a resolution at mediation you will need to attend a final hearing where all the evidence will be presented. A final hearing for divorce occurs as a last step before the judge when the parties are unable to reach a resolution. The parties are presenting evidence for the judge to decide on the issues and declare the marriage terminated. Once at the final hearing the judge will decide on your assets, liabilities, properties and child related issues.
If you were served with a divorce petition in South Florida and need to consult with an attorney on how to proceed, get serious and contact us today.