Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, a marriage falls apart. As a no-fault divorce state, Florida allows couples to file for divorce under the mantra of irreconcilable differences, meaning that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Often, the spouses do not agree on how to divide the household, and/or disagree on matters relating to minor children. How long does a contested divorce take in Florida? The answer depends on how complex the disagreements are, but you could be looking at anywhere from a few months to a year or more, according to our experienced attorneys at Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm.
What Does Contested Divorce Mean?
Florida classifies divorce into two categories: uncontested and contested. Either spouse can file for dissolution of marriage.
- An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses agree on how to divide assets, debts, and child custody/support. Usually, the spouses have few assets, little or no debt, and no minor children. Also, the marriage may have been brief, perhaps a few years or less. At Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm, our shortest uncontested divorce case was settled in three weeks.
- A contested divorce is more common if the spouses have minor children and considerable assets and debts. With more at stake, it is understandable that the spouses will disagree on how to separate their estate and co-parent their children. A contested divorce attorney can help you prepare paperwork that validates your position and fight for you in court. Court battles can be lengthy – our longest contested divorce case took more than three years, although the case experienced some delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Should I Do First?
To start, you will need the services of a Florida divorce attorney. Make sure the firm is reputable and knowledgeable about all aspects of divorce law. At Divorce & Mediation Law Firm | Cabanas Law Firm, we have more than 60 years of combined experience in family law. In addition, our Managing Attorney and Founder, Sergio Cabanas, is a Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review rated attorney. Only attorneys with the highest ethical standards and professional ability receive this rating.
If you and your spouse already have a family attorney, the attorney should not represent either of you in divorce proceedings, as it would be a conflict of interest. Nor may one attorney represent both parties, as that is both unethical and illegal.
Blueprint For Desired Results
Minor children: To help your minor children process the breakup of their parents’ marriage, have them speak to a trusted professional, such as a therapist, school counselor, teacher, or a minister or rabbi. Meanwhile, you need to consider their future: division of timesharing, parental responsibility, and child support.
Assets and debts: Next, you need to list your marital assets and debts. If you want to stay in your home, can you afford to buy your spouse’s half? How much debt do the two of you have? Are there other assets, such as real estate, businesses, and retirement plans, that will need to be divided? Florida law calls for “equitable distribution” of marital assets and debts, which means the court may distribute the estate in what it judges to be fair or equitable, rather than a 50/50 split.
Alimony: Alimony is critical for spouses who have not had a paying job in many years or where there is a substantial disparity in incomes. Florida allows for five different classifications of alimony, ranging from temporary and bridge-the-gap, to permanent.
Pets: Do you have pets? Who should take them? Pets are considered property under Florida law. Although, some couples due share pets after a dissolution.
These issues, and more, can be addressed in mediation. While mediation is not required to start divorce proceedings, if you and your spouse are able to resolve some concerns during mediation, your contested divorce case will move more quickly through the court.
Your contested divorce attorney will provide you with a checklist of necessary documents you’ll need to file with the court. Here’s a partial list:
- Pay stubs
- Investment statements
- Mortgage statements
- Retirement accounts
- Credit reports
- Credit card statements
- Tax returns
- Vehicle titles
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificates for all family members
Begin to gather this paperwork now so that it is ready when the court requests it. Additionally, if you changed your last name when you married, and you now want to restore your original name, your attorney can help you include this in your petition.
It’s Time To Begin
Life is too short to be in the wrong relationship. If you are conducting online searches for “attorney for divorce near me,” our attorneys help clients throughout Broward and Miami-Dade Counties find peace at home through a divorce. Our staff is bilingual in English and Spanish, and we have successfully represented thousands of clients just like you in divorce court.