Florida Women's Law Group
Timeline Of Divorce Proceedings In FloridaAuthor: Florida Women's Law Group
Date: Oct 18 2021
Timeline of Divorce Proceedings in Florida
One of the top questions we are asked is “how long will my divorce take?” There is no set timeline and there are many variables that go into it. The short answer is between 3-24 months in the state of Florida. The average for an uncontested divorce is approximately 3 months and a contested divorce averages 12 months. The timeline is influenced by both spouses’ willingness to participate, both attorneys and the schedule of the court and judge.
Types of Divorce
There are 2 types of divorce, contested or uncontested. Depending on the type of divorce can determine the length of the divorce.
- Uncontested Divorce – An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses are in agreement on all issues, including: alimony, child support, visitation and division of assets and liabilities. By agreeing on the terms, it leaves nothing for the courts to have to decide on. The judge will review the terms of the divorce and then issue the final decree. This is the quickest and least costly way to divorce but does take cooperation and agreement by both spouses. A typical uncontested divorce takes approximately 3 months. Florida does have a mandatory 20-day waiting period after the initial filing which accounts for some of the time frame.
- Contested Divorce – A contested divorce is the most common type in Florida. It is considered contested if there is disagreement on any issue, even if it is just one. Most contested divorces settle in mediation. If it does not settle there, then it goes to court and the judge decides on the outstanding issues. Divorces that are volatile and highly contentious are the ones that take the longest to finalize. On average, a contested divorce takes abut 12 months to complete.
Timeline in a Contested Divorce
Divorce is very unsettling and if you have never gone through it, you are probably unaware of how the process works. There are well-defined and strict steps that are governed by Florida family law courts that must be followed. Here we outline a typical timeline of a contested divorce.
- The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage – The divorce process is initiated in Florida when one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the county clerk of court. This document lays out all the issues of the spouse that is filing. This includes alimony, child support, child custody and division of assets and liabilities. Preparing the petition can take up to 4 weeks to gather, organize and draft the documents.
- Serving the Petition – Once the petition has been filed with the courts a summons is issued for the other spouse. The spouse must then be served with the summons and the petition. This is done by an independent process server. This typically takes one week but can take longer if the person being served evades the server.
- Answering the Petition – Once served, the recipient has 20 days to file an answer to the petition. They can agree or disagree with what has been outlined in the original petition. Commonly there is a counter-petition where the opposing party outlines their issues and desired results. If this happens then the original spouse has 20 days to answer the counter-petition. This step can take several months if counter-petitions are filed or attorneys file for delays to answer.
- Mandatory Disclosures and Requirements – Once the original Petition for Dissolution has been filed, both parties have 45 days to provide a Financial Affidavit. At a minimum, parties must provide pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements and retirement statements.
If there are children involved, Florida requires that all parents take a 4-hour parenting class. This can be done online or in-person. This can happen as soon as the petition is filed but must be completed before final hearing.
- Discovery Process – During this phase, both sides are allowed to ask the other for relevant information and documents. This can be done through subpoenas and/or dispositions. This usually involves detailed financial information and any court-ordered evaluations. The discovery process is driven by the willingness of both parties to provide relevant documents and mutual cooperation. This process can take 3 months and is dependent on the level of engagement by both spouses.
- Mediation – Mediation is required in all Florida divorce cases and the majority are settled here. This typically occurs 4-5 months after filing. During mediation couples meet with a neutral third-party and try to settle their issues before going to court. Reaching an agreement in mediation provides couples more control over the outcome and can create a win-win situation. If an agreement is met it is filed with the courts for the Final Hearing.
- Trial – If an agreement cannot be reached in mediation, then the case goes to trial and a judge decides on the outstanding issues. This can be extremely contentious and expensive for both sides as it takes much longer to settle. A trial can take 9 months to 3 years depending on the contention of the spouses.
- Final Hearing – Once an agreement has been reached a Final Hearing is scheduled with a judge. The judge reviews the settlement and then issues a final judgement of Dissolution of Marriage.
There are many variables that can affect the speed of a divorce case. Both spouses must cooperate and provide accurate documents in a timely manner and follow orders and procedures. The more engaged you are in the process and your level of responsiveness to attorney requests and calls can shorten time as well.
The calendar of attorneys, mediators, courts and the judge also play a part in the timeline. COVID has been a huge influence on court hearings and divorce proceedings. All courts closed in 2020 with the onset of COVID and that created a huge backlog of cases. Many courts are still closed and are only offering virtual hearings. This has caused a considerable increase in the length of time to divorce. Expect delays in your divorce case as courts struggle to get back to normal operations.
At Florida Women’s Law Group, we have the experience, resources and skills to provide you with empathetic and compassionate legal service. We are here to provide legal advice and the assistance you may need throughout your divorce. We represent women just like you to help you get through this and onto a better and happier life.