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Family Law Processes

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Couples planning to dissolve their marriage in Florida will likely have to deal with a variety of family law matters, such as:

  • Child custody
  • Parenting plans
  • Time-sharing
  • Paternity
  • Spousal support
  • Child Support
  • Marital property v. separate property
  • Division of marital assets and liabilities

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to dissolution of marriage in Florida, and couples have a variety of options regarding their divorce, including:

Uncontested

To obtain an uncontested divorce in Florida, the parties must agree on all issues, leaving nothing for a judge to decide. Since uncontested divorces are usually quite simple to achieve, lawyers often charge a set, flat fee for them. Here is how a Florida uncontested divorce typically proceeds:

  • An uncontested divorce can usually be finalized in two to four months.
  • Although an attorney’s assistance is not required in an uncontested divorce, one or both of the parties are free to retain legal counsel.
  • The cost of an uncontested divorce will typically be $2,500 – $5,000, often charged as a flat fee for the entire case.
  • The parties communicate directly to settle their issues, and any attorneys involved act as administrators to handle court procedures and draft the necessary paperwork.
  • Information is shared between the parties as they deem necessary.
  • Details of the divorce remain private.
  • Each party is focused on outcomes to serve their personal interests.
  • Attorney(s) roles are limited, and no professionals are usually available to help the couple work through financial, social, emotional, and child custody issues.
  • Even though the divorce is uncontested, the parties will still have complete and file all the necessary documents, appear before a judge to have their Final Decree signed, and then have it filed with the circuit court clerk. 
  • If children are involved, the couple will be required to complete a Department of Children and Families approved parenting course.

In an uncontested divorce, the parties control the outcome of their case with limited input from attorneys, if they are involved in the matter.

Litigation

If the spouses cannot agree on all the issues involved in their divorce, a court trial will be required to dissolve their marriage. Each party will present evidence and testimony to a judge during the hearing, and the judge will make final decisions on any contested matters. This is what is typically involved in a litigated divorce:

  • Litigated divorce typically conclude within 12-24 months.
  • Each party will retain their own attorney and various experts, if necessary.
  • The initial retainer for attorneys handling a litigated divorce is usually $10,000 – $20,000, not including expert and court fees.
  • A litigated divorce is an adversarial process in which parties and their attorneys work against one another and focus solely on their own best interests.
  • Transparency between the parties is discouraged, and information is shared only when required by law or if providing the information will somehow benefit the sharing party.
  • Details of the divorce are made public in motions and pleadings filed in the public court record, and court proceedings are open to the public.
  • The parties present evidence involving past conflicts in order to obtain a favorable ruling.
  • Attorneys provide legal and financial analysis, as well as guidance regarding children’s issues. No professional is available to facilitate communications or direct the emotional aspects of the divorce.

When a divorce is litigated in court, the parties have no control over the outcome. Instead, the case issues are submitted to a judge, who makes all final decisions.

Mediation

Mediation is a procedure meant to assist the spouses to reach an agreement without a lengthy process and outside of court. It is not intended to save a marriage, but instead to help the divorcing parties arrive at agreeable terms as they dissolve their marriage. Here are some of the key aspects of obtaining a divorce through mediation:

  • The process typically takes one to three months and can involve one attorney for each party along with one neutral mediator, who is not allowed to give legal advice.
  • Retainers for attorneys and the mediator typically cost between $2,500 and $5,000.
  • Each party is focused on finding outcomes that best serve their personal interests.
  • The parties and their attorneys discuss and negotiate the case with the assistance of the neutral mediator. Information is shared between the parties as they deem necessary.
  • Details regarding the mediation remain private.
  • The mediator and attorneys are able to help negotiate a settlement but are not allowed to make decisions for the parties.
  • Settlement occurs only through mutual agreement between the parties.

Although the parties control the outcome of a divorce mediation, they are not always fully aware of all the factors that should be considered.

Collaboration

A collaborative divorce will allow a couple to reach a settlement in a non-adversarial manner.  The hope is that a peaceful resolution of a dispute through the collaborative law process will help preserve an amicable relationship between the parties after the divorce is final. Here are some critical things to know about the collaborative divorce process:

  • Both parties must choose to use the collaborative process, and each must be represented by an independent attorney.
  • Collaborative divorces usually take from four to six months to become final and cost between $15,000 – $20,000 (initial retainer for entire team only, not total cost of case).
  • Professionals assisting with a collaborative divorce usually include two attorneys, one neutral financial professional, and one neutral mental health professional.
  • Transparency between the parties is a required and necessary element of a collaborative divorce, and information must be shared freely in order to reach a mutually agreeable outcome.
  • The details involved in a collaborative divorce remain private.
  • The parties must work together to determine the best future for their family.
  • Attorneys analyze the legal aspects of the case, financial professionals review the financial issues, and a mental health professional facilitates communication and the emotional facets of the case.

In a collaborative divorce, the parties control the outcome, are fully informed regarding all pertinent issues, and are assisted by a team of trained professionals.

Are you and your spouse searching for help in dissolving a marriage in Florida? Vero Beach, Florida Attorney Susan Chesnutt knows Florida family law inside and out, and she can help you weigh your options. For legal advice regarding a Florida divorce, contact Susan Chesnutt online or call 772-242-0524 today.

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