In Florida, there is basically only two requirements for obtaining a divorce: that at least one spouse has resided in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing for the divorce and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. It is basically irrelevant that the other spouse does not want the divorce. Most people have the idea that they will have to, or want to, prove that their spouse is at fault. Fault is not a factor in the granting of a divorce in Florida. Marital misconduct (an affair), while specifically mentioned in Florida law is generally not a factor in a divorce unless one spouse was using significant marital funds to carry on the affair.
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties agree on everything, generally through mediation. But before you can attend mediation, the parties must exchange financial documents so that each party knows what's on the table before they attempt to agree upon settlement.
This process of document exchange is called discovery. The agreement, if one is reached, is reduced to writing at the mediation. The spouses sign the agreement, and then attend a final hearing on the uncontested docket. Usually just one spouse attends the final hearing. The Judge at the final hearing performs the legal dissolution of your marriage, and basically makes your agreement a Court Order, which has the same legal effect as if you went to trial. The actual dissolution of marriage in an uncontested divorce usually takes about 5 minutes in the Courtroom. Case Over.
Contested divorces can be messy, expensive, and stressful. Often, the issues in contested divorces include items such as where the children will live i.e. the wife or the husband, time-sharing or visitation arrangements, the division of assets and liabilities, the payment or receipt of alimony and/or child support and the payment of attorney's fees from one spouse to the other. With alimony and attorney's fees, the overriding factor is the ability of one spouse to pay and the need of the other spouse . With child-support, the overriding determining factor is the application of the Florida child support guidelines. The guidelines are basically a grid where you combine the net incomes of the parties, look at the grid, do some basic math, and come up a with a child-support number based on the grid.
If one of the parties is self-employed, one of the most difficult issues in the case may become determining how much income the self-employed spouse actually makes. It is with this income number that determines items such as alimony and child support. In many cases one party, or both, may be required to use a forensic accountant who will examine the books and records of the self-employed spouse and express an expert opinion as to the amount of income earned by the self-employed spouse. If your contested issues involve the children, oftentimes, one spouse may ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem, who will do an investigation regarding the best interests of the children and then report the findings to the court. The Guardian speaks to the children, assuming, of course, that they are not infants, and spouses, teachers, friends and relatives to get a grasp of the issues regarding the children. In certain cases, one spouse may ask that the other spouse be psychologically evaluated. If drugs or alcohol are involved, one spouse may ask the court to compel the other spouse to undergo random drug screens or testing. Of course, documents need to be exchanged between the spouses and this process in and of itself may become problematic if one spouse is not cooperating with the other spouse regarding requests for financial documentation. Then, the parties along with her lawyers present all the evidence to the judge in a trial. The judge then issues a ruling, deciding upon all the issues raised at the trial. Trials can take three hours or many days depending on the number of witnesses called by the parties and the number of issues involved.
Robert S. Hannan has handled literally hundreds of divorce cases. With a law practice limited to family issues, Mr. Hannan is available for a consultation by calling 321-361-0753.