Three Types of Divorce in Florida Florida recognizes three different types of divorce proceedings, all called "Dissolution of Marriage."
1. Simplified Dissolution of Marriage: When both parties are in agreement with the terms of the divorce, and when there are no minor child and none are contemplated, and the parties have already agreed on asset and debt distribution. (See Clerk of Courts for exact details)
2. Uncontested Dissolution of Marriage: An Uncontested Dissolution of Marriage is when the parties agree on all issues in the divorce, such as child support, alimony, timesharing, asset and debt distribution, etc. and the parties enter into a Settlement Agreement or a Mediation Agreement that gets filed with the court and becomes part of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This is not something that is determined before filing for divorce, it is the manner in which the divorce gets settled or resolved.
3. Dissolution of Marriage: This is the standard, run-of-the-mill divorce case. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and all supporting documents must be filed with the clerk and served on the other party by a process server or the Sheriff's Office. The divorce proceeds through exchanging of documents (called discovery), depositions, mediation and other negotiations and either is resolved as an Uncontested Dissolution of Marriage or proceeds to trial and, after hearing all the evidence, the judge or a magistrate will determine all of the issues in the Final Judgment.
All divorces in Florida result in the entry of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage that specifies what the parties' rights and obligations are going forward. The Final Judgment is enforceable by contempt of court.
Florida is a "no fault" state - in other words, neither party has to allege wrong-doing by the other party in order to obtain a divorce, the only requirement is that the marriage is alleged to be irretrievably broken. Timeline for Dissolution of Marriage The following is an overly simplified timeline, but contains the basics of a divorce process in Florida.
1. Filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and service of the Petition and all supporting documents on the other party.
2. 20 days are allowed by law for the other party to respond to the Petition which can be answered by a general denial or admissions, or the other party may file a Counter-Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and all supporting documents.
3.After both parties have filed all Petitions, Answers and Counter-Petitions, the Discovery process continues. Discovery is the term used to refer to the exchange of financial documents, the taking of depositions, the exchange of interrogatories and requests to produce and requests for admissions. This process is allowed so that each party has all of the information that is needed to fairly and accurately resolve the case.
4. Sometimes the parties wish to go to mediation, and sometimes the courts require the parties to attend mediation. Mediation is a time for the parties and their attorneys, if any, to meet with a third-party called a mediator who will assist the parties in discussing a resolution of their case. The mediator cannot and will not tell the parties what to do, but they can be very helpful in keeping the parties on track and coming to a reasonable resolution.
5. Court hearings: The most common court hearings in divorce cases are ones to compel compliance with the discovery process mentioned above, and temporary relief hearings. Motions to Compel discovery are done to force a non-willing party to participate in the process. Motions for Temporary Relief are typically short hearings to allow a party to get temporary relief, such as child support, alimony, attorney fees, etc. that is needed immediately and can't or shouldn't wait until the case is resolved.
6. Trial or other final resolution of the case: Contested divorce cases will end up going to trial and the judge will decide who gets what and who pays what. If the parties can come to an agreement, maybe at mediation, maybe by informal negotiations, the court can and will incorporate the agreement into the Final Judgment, otherwise the judge will make all decisions based on Florida Law and the evidence presented at the hearing. Child Support and Timesharing The court must determine child support according to the Florida Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are a lot like tax returns in the sense that the numbers are entered and the result is non-negotiable (for the most part) child support. The numbers that are entered include the parties' incomes, child care costs, health insurance costs, and the number of overnights the child spends with each parent. The result is a child support figure that the court will order.
Timesharing is the time a parent spends with the minor children. The timesharing is used to determine how much child support will be paid by one party to the other. Neither parent has a right to more timesharing than the other parent, but often one parent will receive more than the other based on the needs of the children and the time available by the parents. Equitable Distribution All marital assets and debts will be equitably (fairly) distributed by the court unless the parties can agree on the distribution at mediation or by informal negotiations. Martial property is, typically, anything acquired during the marriage, including debts. Non-marital, or pre-marital, property is the property that is brought into a marriage and is never commingled or converted into marital property. Non-martial property is a legal designation that can be very technical. If there are issues regarding this, you should consult with an attorney to determine the proper designation.