What Do I Need to Know about the Divorce Process in Orlando?
The details about your divorce process will depend upon which process option you choose. For example, the collaborative divorce process is quite different from a traditional, divorce-court process or a mediated divorce process.
Because each divorce process option is different, I will describe and detail each one separately.
THE TRADITIONAL DIVORCE COURT PROCESS
There are some variations within the traditional divorce court process. However, most of these types of cases follow a typical process like the following:
STEP 1: The process begins with the preparation and filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition is the document that tells the court what the issues are in your case, such as parenting, equitable distribution of your assets and debts, alimony, and child support. The court’s power to give you what you want is limited or controlled by your Petition. So, it is imperative that your Petition is done correctly. Expect the preparation of your Petition to take anywhere from one to three business days.
STEP 2: There is an extensive list of other documents that must be prepared to begin your divorce. Some of these other documents might include a Summons, Notice of Social Security Number, Notice of Confidentiality, Notice of Appearance, Notice of Designation of Email Addresses for Service, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act affidavit. Expect the preparation of these other documents to take anywhere from one to three business days.
STEP 3: Your Petition and the other documents must be served upon your spouse so that they have notice that you are bringing an action for divorce against them. This is called “service of process.” Service of process can be accomplished by either having the Sheriff or private process server deliver the papers to your spouse, or by sending the documents to your spouse if they will agree to waive the formal requirements of service of process. Expect service of process to take anywhere from one to five business days. However, it may take significantly longer if your spouse tries to avoid service or if your spouse is difficult to locate.
STEP 4: Once your spouse has been served, they have twenty calendar days to prepare, file, and serve you with their response called an “Answer.” Their Answer simply admits or denies each listed allegation in your Petition. If they fail to file and serve you with their Answer within the 20-calendar day period, they may be defaulted. If a default is entered by the court, the divorce will proceed without their participation. Expect that your spouse will take the full 20 days to prepare, file and serve their Answer.
STEP 5: Within 45 days of service of your Petition upon your spouse, each of you is required to provide Rule 12.285 Mandatory Disclosure to the other. In other words, you must exchange documents with each other such as IRS Tax Returns, pay stubs, credit reports, a financial affidavit, loan applications, financial statements, deeds, promissory notes, 12 months’ worth of statements for all checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, virtual currency transactions, and life insurance policies. An exhaustive list of required documents can be found in the latest version of the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure under Rule 12.285 Mandatory Disclosure, which can be downloaded from the Florida Bar’s website.
STEP 6: You will be required to attend at least one mediation session. You are not limited to just one mediation. However, you must attend at least one if you are unable to settle everything. There are courthouse mediators and private mediators.
STEP 7: If you settle everything at your mediation, then either the mediator or one of the lawyers will prepare the settlement agreements. After the settlement agreement have been reviewed and approved, they will be filed in your case. If you don’t settle everything at mediation, you have the option to try another mediation or proceed to a trial before your Judge.
STEP 8: If you settled everything at mediation, a Final Judgment will be prepared by you or one of the lawyers for submission to the Judge. Once your Judge enters a Final Judgment in your divorce, you will be officially divorced and single once again!
STEP 9: If you need a trial for your Judge to settle the remaining issues in your divorce, a Notice for Trial will be prepared and filed in your case. The Judge will place your case on his or her trial docket and you will begin the process of preparing your case for trial.
STEP 10: You will have your trial and your Judge will decide how to settle the remaining issues. A Final Judgment will be prepared and entered in your case. You will then be officially divorced and single again.
THE COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE PROCESS
The typical collaborative process is listed below. Sometimes the process below might be a little different in situations that require something else. For example, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on a particular problem, a mediator might be hired to help you get the problem resolved. In general, the process below is fairly typical or standard for a collaborative divorce.
STEP 1: You and your spouse agree to a collaborative divorce.
STEP 2: Each of you retains a collaboratively trained lawyer.
STEP 3: Your respective lawyers will begin generating options for the remaining members of your professional team, including your Financial Neutral Professional and your Mental Health Neutral (aka Collaborative Facilitator).
STEP 4: Once the remaining members of your team have been chosen, collaborative agreements will be prepared, reviewed, and signed. Then, all of the professionals will conduct a conference call to discuss you, your spouse, and your children if you have any, and prepare an agenda for your first “Full Team Collaborative Meeting.”
STEP 5: You, your spouse, and the professional team will all attend your first full team collaborative meeting. This meeting and any subsequent meetings might be in person or over ZOOM or some other remote video conferencing platform.
STEP 6: A second full team meeting will be conducted if necessary. Additional full team meetings will happen until all of the issues in your divorce have been settled.
STEP 7: Settlement agreements will be prepared. You and your spouse will sign the settlement agreement at a final full team meeting.
STEP 8: Your signed settlement agreements and other required court documents will be filed with the court. A Judge will review and sign a Final Judgment. You will then be officially divorced and single again.
A MEDIATED DIVORCE PROCESS
You may not want to involve lawyers. Rather, you might prefer to hire a mediator to help you and your spouse resolve the issues in your divorce. A typical mediated divorce process has the following steps:
STEP 1: You and your spouse agree to use a Mediator to help you divorce.
STEP 2: Choose a Mediator. There are a wide variety of mediators with diverse backgrounds, education, and skills. Some mediators are best with parenting issues and others are best with financial issues. For more information, please see our page dedicated to Family Mediation
STEP 3: You and your spouse will meet with your mediator informally for one or more mediation sessions. These generally last a few hours or longer. Your mediator will help you communicate with each other in a way that leads to compromise and settlement.
STEP 4: Settlement agreements will be prepared. Those agreements, along with some other required court documents, will be filed with the court and submitted to the Judge for review. Once the Judge signs and enters your Final Judgment, you will be officially divorced.
I hope this is helpful for you and provides you with a better understanding of what your divorce process might look like.