How Long Does a Divorce Take in Tampa?
The disputes between you and your partner decide how long it will take to finalize a divorce in Florida. Your assets, debt, and the size of your family also play a role.
During a marriage, spouses create many memories and in some cases, their families grow beyond just two people. Married couples may accumulate property, wealth, and debt over years or decades.
For these reasons, a divorce proceeding may involve more than a judge saying you are no longer married. You and your spouse must resolve issues concerning the property you acquired during (or brought into) the marriage, child custody and support, alimony, retirement funds, and other spousal support.
Schedule a Free Divorce Consultation with a Real Tampa Divorce Lawyer
Before entering a courtroom or signing off on any divorce settlement please speak with a divorce lawyer at Robert Sparks Tampa Divorce Attorneys.
Schedule a free consultation with our skilled lawyers. It’s a no-risk, no-obligation way to be made aware of every potential pitfall you might encounter when going through even a friendly, cooperative divorce.
If you feel we can help you safeguard your rights and retain more of what you’ve worked so hard for, our Tampa Divorce Lawyers stand ready to represent you. We help clients successfully navigate mediated divorces, collaborative divorces, and contested divorces decided in court.
A Simplified Tampa Divorce
However you ultimately obtain a divorce, Florida law says you or your spouse must reside in Florida for at least six months before you request it. In a simplified divorce proceeding, you and the spouse file a form that tells the court that you both agree that the marriage is “irrevocably broken.”
The “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” usually takes 30 days or so. To use this approach:
- You and your spouse do not have property to be divided or you both agree at the time of filing how to divide it
- No spouse seeks alimony
- The wife is not pregnant
- There are no minor children born of the marriage
If any of these is not true, you cannot resort to this process. Further, a simplified divorce may not shorten the time even if the spouses agree on dividing pension and retirement plans. Courts must enter Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) to direct retirement plans to distribute a party’s share of the funds.
Filing a Petition in a Tampa Divorce
When you can’t obtain a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you must file a petition for a regular divorce. You must allege that the marriage is “irrevocably broken” and that you or your spouse have been Florida residents for at least six months at the time you file.
Whether contested or uncontested, the spouse being sued (the respondent) has 20 days after being served to answer the petition. The paperwork includes a financial affidavit which each spouse must file no later than 45 days after being served with the petition and response respectively. In the financial affidavit, each spouse lists:
- Monthly income, such as wages, salaries, retirement, earnings from self-employment, dividends, Social Security (retirement or disability), unemployment, and rent
- Monthly expenses, such as rent, mortgage payments, utilities, gas, transportation, telephone bills, cable/satellite, personal grooming, insurance, and food
- Assets, such as real estate, vehicles, jewelry, stocks, bonds, retirement plans
- Liabilities, such as credit card debt, balance on mortgages, personal loans
Many retired couples call Tampa and the surrounding area home. Some divorces will involve senior couples who will have many additional concerns as they contemplate the dissolution of a long-term marriage.
Those unique factors will include how retirement funds will be divided. For more valuable information from our Tampa Senior Divorce Lawyers check out our page on Divorce in the Golden Years.
When There is No Contest in a Florida Divorce
Uncontested regular divorces can take between four and six weeks, or slightly longer. Spouses may obtain a regular divorce when they agree on how to divide property and a parenting plan that decides matters such as custody of the children, visitation, education, religious instruction, daycare, summer camps; and use of public transportation such as air travel, trains, or buses.
Parenting plans may address situations where the parents live long distances apart or there are special considerations for the safety of the parents or children. For help with questions on how to protect your children in Tampa divorce proceedings check out our page on Tampa Child Custody.
If you pursue an uncontested regular divorce, a settlement agreement will memorialize your accord with your spouse on property division, the parenting plan, child support, and other matters. The agreement becomes part of the divorce judgment, and courts may enforce it as a court order.
Contested Divorces Can Last Over a Year
As you might expect, contested divorces arise when the parties disagree on one or more issues in the marriage. The spouses can still work on a settlement, but a trial becomes a possibility. The parties and lawyers must prepare for a trial. Due to the steps described below, navigating a contested divorce takes at least a year, often more. With the aid of a scheduling order, the judges and lawyers set deadlines for the completion of these tasks.
Contested civil cases in Florida – domestic and non-domestic alike – involve a discovery phase. The parties request and exchange information, gather facts and potential evidence and interview the parties and witnesses under oath in depositions. With the discovery process, the parties or their lawyers hope to avoid surprises at trial and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their cases and that of the opponents.
Financial Document Production
In a divorce case, parties seek several documents to verify or refute statements in the financial affidavits and to otherwise learn about the financial conditions of the parties or household. Florida law requires the parties in a contested divorce to produce many of these financial documents. They include:
- Income tax returns, W-2s, Form 1099, and other tax records
- Retirement or pension plan statements
- Insurance policies
- Stock, bond, and mutual fund statements from brokers
- Bank statements, deposit receipts, checks, and other bank records
- Mortgage, credit card, and other loan statements
- Deeds, promissory notes, deeds of trust
- Financial statements of businesses owned by the parties
To get these and other financial records from the banks, insurance companies, and other third parties, your Tampa Divorce lawyer issues subpoenas for production at trial or a deposition.
A set of interrogatories presents written questions that an opposing party must answer under oath. The types of questions differ with the issues being disputed. For example, interrogatories in child custody cases might ask a parent to:
- List criminal convictions and traffic violations for a specified period
- Provide residential addresses for the parent and children, including since the spouses stopped living separate and apart
- Explain the parent’s plans for custody, visitation, residence, education, religious training, recreation, and sports activities of the children
- List all people living in the home with the children for various periods, and those living in the home where the child would live if the parent obtains custody or visitation
Interrogatories in alimony cases focus upon the financial dependency of the spouse requesting it upon the other spouse and the fault of that other spouse.
Your Tampa Divorce Lawyer may ask the other spouse about current or prior employment, services in the home, support of your education and career, your support of the other spouse’s education and career pursuits, and acts of abuse or infidelity.
In a deposition, a party must answer questions from the opposing lawyer under oath about events, finances, and other matters related to the divorce case. Many of the topics cover and expand upon the information disclosed in the required financial affidavit, interrogatories, and request for production of documents.
Therefore, Tampa divorce attorneys will not schedule depositions until after the interrogatories are answered and documents are produced. Depositions often tie a party or witness to particular positions or facts, as depositions can be used to attack contradictory testimony at trial. With the many commitments of family law attorneys to hearings, other depositions, mediations, and trials, depositions often get scheduled weeks and perhaps over a month in advance.
In a child custody case, a party might request a psychological evaluation of the child or children involved or the other parent.
Courts may grant such motions if a party places the mental health of a parent or child at issue and if the examination may reveal evidence regarding the effect of a custody placement on the child’s mental or physical well-being. If granted, mental examinations have to be scheduled. This could lengthen the time of the divorce proceeding.
Mediation and Trial
Florida requires that parties in a contested divorce proceeding attend a mediation conference. This allows you to settle your case without a lengthy trial. The majority of contested divorces end, not at trial, but at mediation.
Depending on the issues involved and the discovery conducted, mediation conferences can occur between four and six months after the petitioner starts the contested divorce.
If your case does not settle, you will have a trial before a judge. Except for divorce cases where a party contests the paternity of the husband or where a personal injury claim is alleged, juries do not hear family law matters. Even so, trials normally do not take place for at least a year after the filing of the petition.
Contact a Tampa Divorce Attorney
At Robert Sparks Tampa Divorce Attorneys we are ready to defend the interests of our clients and safeguard their rights. We also understand that a fair and relatively speedy resolution to the matter is in the best interest of all parties. Our attorneys work to shield you and your family from as much disruption to your lives as possible during a divorce.
We offer a free case consultation to anyone facing a divorce. You’ll learn some valuable information on retaining the property and protecting the relationships that are most important to you.
Robert Sparks Attorneys stands by you through divorce negotiations and litigation while putting a priority on your wellbeing. We make sure you’ll have what you need to rebuild your life, retain your career and assets, and protect your time with your children.