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Guide to Florida Divorce: Part 1 – Stages of Divorce

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 21, 2022

Complicated, prolonged, and emotionally taxing, the divorce process may be the most difficult undertaking you ever face.

However, you can greatly reduce the stress and hassle involved with careful preparation, informed planning, and proper execution of all of the steps involved.

While every divorce is unique, there are some general stages that most divorces may follow. To help you prepare your divorce case and understand the process ahead, we’ve included the stages of a typical divorce in Florida below.

1. Initiating divorce
You may initiate divorce in Florida by filing a “petition for dissolution of marriage” form. As the person filing the petition for divorce, you are considered the “petitioner,” while your spouse is the “respondent.”

Your petition will inform the court that you are pursuing a divorce and can make some initial claims. In your petition, you should list all the matters you want the court to address, including asset distribution, child support, and alimony.

You may be able to file a “simplified dissolution of marriage” if you and your spouse agree on how your property will be divided, neither of you is requesting alimony, and you have no minor children. However, you should be sure you agree on everything before filing for this kind of divorce, since you may give up certain rights and options by doing so.

2. Serving the petition to divorce
Serving the petition of divorce involves delivering a copy of this form to your spouse. Service of the petition is often handled by a sheriff or a certified process server. After your spouse is served with a petition, he or she has 20 days to file their response. Otherwise, your spouse may lose their right to argue their side of the case in divorce court.

3. Sending a financial disclosure.
Under Florida law, both you and your spouse will be are required to send a financial disclosure to each other within 45 days of your petition for divorce. The financial disclosure is a signed financial affidavit that lists your income, assets, debts, and other important financial information.

4. Setting temporary orders.
While your divorce case is pending, both you and your spouse have the option to request temporary orders from the court. These orders could address issues such as child care, bill paying, and living arrangements. However, you can spare you and your family hassle and money by agreeing on these matters outside of court whenever possible.

5. Discovery
Discovery refers to the legal procedure for obtaining information about the other party. During the discovery process, the spouses exchange facts and documents, typically relating to financial issues. Discovery could involve interviews, demands for financial statements, and written lists of questions each spouse must answer under oath.

6. Settlement or trial.
When discovery is complete and both parties have an idea of what they’re up against, spouses and their attorneys may meet with a neutral mediator to negotiate a settlement. During settlement proceedings, both parties will try and work out an agreement on important issues such as child time-sharing arrangements, child support, and property division.

However, if a settlement cannot be reached, your case will continue to trial. During a trial, both parties may argue their side through personal testimonies, witness testimonies, and exhibits. In this case, it is up to a judge to determine matters such as property division, time-sharing, child support, and alimony.

Before embarking on the complex, time-consuming, and often traumatic divorce process, you should consult with a divorce attorney who is both compassionate and aggressive. Your attorney can guide you through the many stages of divorce, ensuring all paperwork is handled correctly and in a way that protects your interests. He or she may be able to help you negotiate a settlement with your spouse, sparing you both the hassle and expense of taking your case to trial. However, if it does become necessary to go to court, your attorney will work hard to defend your rights and finances.