DISSOLUTION OF (“DIVORCE”) MARRIAGE:
Florida recognizes both same sex and traditional marriages. Therefore, Florida will allow same sex and traditional divorces. Florida does not have “Legal Separation” and does not require the six month or one year waiting periods found in some other states. Florida also does not require a “Reason” for the divorce. Florida is a “No-Fault” state. Florida only requires that one of the parties seeking the divorce has lived in Florida for the 6 months prior to the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of marriage and that the marriage is “Irretrievably Broken”. The person seeking the divorce and the person from whom the divorce is sought must be mentally competent. If not, there is a waiting period and a guardianship may need to be filed.
The court has jurisdiction in a divorce to change a person’s name, split real and personal property, award different types of support (“Alimony”), determine child issues such as timesharing (“Visitation”), child support, attorney’s fees and numerous less common issues. In the event that the parties have a minor child, the parties will be required to attend a parenting course. This course can be completed on-line. The court also has the power to appoint/order certain professionals to assist the court in making a ruling such as a CPA, Guardian Ad Litem, Parenting Coordinator, and Family Therapist as well as order certain tests such as DNA testing, drug testing, and psychological testing.
The dissolution or divorce proceeding is started with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If there are minor children then the filing party must also file a UCCJEA Affidavit that tells the court if there are any other court cases concerning this child(ren), if there are any other people that claim rights with this child(ren) and where the child(ren) has/have lived for the past 5 years or since birth, whichever is longer. The parties to the divorce have 45 days to produce “Mandatory Disclosure”. This requires the parties to provide Financial Affidavits, bank statements, tax returns, credit card statements, pay stubs, retirement statements and a number of other financial documents.
The case can be set for Trial as soon as the Petition and Answer are filed. A trial in family court is called a “Final Hearing”. The court will require that the case go to mediation prior to the Final Hearing.
Mediation will be held with the parties, their respective attorneys and a mediator. The mediator does not take sides, is not a judge and cannot force anyone to settle. The mediator tries to find common ground in the case after listening to both sides. There are laws that protect the mediation process and one of those laws makes mediation confidential. This is important to get both sides to settle.
If the case settles at mediation then the attorneys will prepare a Meditation Agreement. One of the attorneys will file the Agreement with the Clerk of Court. One of the parties will then attend an uncontested final hearing for the Judge to officially dissolve the marriage, ratify the parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement, take jurisdictional testimony and enter a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
If the case does not settle at mediation then the case is handled at a Final hearing.