The main goal of the divorce process is for a couple to finalize terms that outline agreements covering the division of assets and marital property, spousal support payments, child custody, visitation arrangements, and child support. A couple's ability to agree to these terms and the process they go through to reach an agreement defines whether a divorce is contested or uncontested.
Divorce terms outline some of the most important aspects of a couple's life following a divorce, and the agreement process should not be taken lightly. As such, more often than not, couples struggle to agree.
Both uncontested and contested divorce can leave you vulnerable to being pressured into an agreement or settlement that is not right for you and your family. Legal representation is crucial to successfully navigating and negotiating your divorce to secure your desired outcome.
At The Family Matters Law Firm, we equip our clients with the knowledge to understand the difference between contested and uncontested divorce and how best to approach their specific circumstances. Our attorneys have over 20 years of experience handling contested and uncontested divorces in Florida and we are highly skilled at securing the best possible outcome for our clients.
Contact our legal team today to discuss your divorce case on 305-916-4053.
An uncontested divorce, when both spouses agree to the divorce and the terms, can be a relatively simple process. A couple will work together to agree on divorce terms, including the division of marital property, child custody, and support payments. If both spouses agree on the necessary issues, they outline the terms in a proposed divorce decree. Then, this is submitted to the court for the Judge to sign and finalize.
If a couple qualifies for an uncontested divorce and can agree on their terms, this negates the need for formal mediation and a potentially lengthy trial process. However, not all couples qualify for an uncontested divorce in Florida. Issues such as minimum residency requirements, spousal support, and minor children can impact a couple's eligibility for an uncontested divorce.
A contested divorce is a much more complex and time-consuming process. A contested divorce arises if a spouse disagrees with the divorce or the divorce terms. Unfortunately, this is a common situation when a couple separates. Contested divorces are typically a long, tense, and expensive process. However, the involvement of legal representation ensures that your rights are protected throughout.
In Florida, divorce proceedings begin when either spouse files a divorce petition with the local court. The papers are served to your spouse to inform them that you want a divorce, then the served spouse will respond to the petition.
If the divorce is contested and a couple can't agree on their divorce terms, they can use the court system, formal mediation, and even a trial to negotiate and finalize the terms. Legal procedures often take much longer in a contested divorce as a couple goes backward and forward to find common ground and reach an agreement.
After the divorce papers have been filed and the other spouse has responded, a couple will typically undertake formal mediation to negotiate their terms. In some circumstances, a Judge orders mediation. A neutral third party facilitates formal mediation with both spouses and their attorneys.
Through mediation, spouses can negotiate all elements involved in a divorce, including child custody, child support, spousal support, and how to divide marital property. If a couple agrees upon terms through mediation, the mediator usually prepares a document that reflects the agreement. A formal consent order is prepared if the terms include child custody or support. A couple can then file this agreement and the final divorce paperwork with the divorce court to be finalized.
If mediation fails and a couple has not agreed upon their divorce terms, they will proceed to a divorce trial. A trial is also required when mediation is only partially successful and the couple has not agreed on all elements.
A family court trial is the final step in the divorce process if a couple has not managed to agree at any point beforehand. In a trial, both parties will argue their case in favor of their proposed divorce terms and provide evidence to the court to justify and support their claims. It is down to a Judge to make the final decision on divorce terms in a trial. Once a decision is made, the terms are finalized and endorsed by the Judge in the signed divorce order.
Although a trial can be daunting, in some situations, if mediation is unsuccessful, it may be necessary to achieve a fair outcome and ensure that your rights are defended. The Family Matters Law Firm divorce attorneys are highly skilled in the courtroom and will fight aggressively to secure a fair outcome for you and your family inside and outside the courtroom.
A contested divorce is typically a stressful time where tensions are high between divorcing spouses. With so much at stake in divorce and often with animosity between parties, complications can arise that make the process more challenging.
A common complication within contested divorces is the breakdown of communication between both parties. When deciding upon aspects such as property division and child custody, frequent and effective communication between spouses is key to reaching an agreement. If a communication breakdown is hindering your divorce proceedings, your attorney can help resolve the situation.
Divorces with children involved can often raise further complications. Understandably, both parents prioritize spending as much time with their children as possible, which often results in disagreements that are challenging to resolve. The emotional nature of custody of children and visitation arrangements means these are often the issues where a couple can't find agreeable solutions.
Further complications often seen in contested divorces include false allegations from spouses and the division of property when a couple has a large number of assets.
The State of Florida allows both no-fault and at-fault divorces, depending on the couple's circumstances. In a no-fault divorce, a couple must demonstrate that the marriage is irretrievably broken and difficult or impossible to recover. In Florida, this is acceptable grounds for divorce and no further proof is required. A no-fault divorce is also an option for a spouse seeking a divorce when their partner does not want a divorce. As there is no requirement to prove wrongdoing, it is more difficult to challenge a no-fault divorce.
In a fault-based, or at-fault, divorce, a spouse needs to prove wrongdoing on the other spouse's part to convince a Judge that their spouse is responsible for the marriage breakdown. Common justifications for a fault-based divorce include adultery, abandonment, and cruelty.
At-fault divorces are often lengthy due to the need to prove wrongdoing. This can be challenging and, in some circumstances, although one spouse may be at fault, a no-fault divorce is chosen if the fault can't be proven. However, it may sway the negotiations and final settlement in your favor if a Judge finds your spouse responsible for the breakdown of your marriage.
Florida law outlines a mandatory waiting period of 20 days once a spouse has filed the divorce petition with the court. This period allows a couple to change their mind and not proceed with the divorce if they choose not to.
Following the waiting period, how long a divorce takes to be finalized depends on a couple's ability to agree on the terms of the divorce. Lengthy mediation and numerous court hearings can substantially extend the time required to complete a divorce.
It is difficult to define how long a contested divorce will take. Typically duration varies based on the number of disputes between the couple and whether disputes can be settled through mediation or require repeated appearances in court.
Other elements that affect how long a contested divorce may take include the number of assets a couple has, the involvement of children, how long discovery takes, and any other issues that may arise.
A contested divorce can take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year to several years to finalize.
An experienced divorce attorney is crucial to ensure that this process does not take longer than necessary. The key to any divorce is skilled negotiation. A reputable attorney will fight on your behalf efficiently and aggressively to secure the best possible outcome for you as quickly as possible.
In some circumstances, an uncontested divorce can be a simple and relatively quick process. If a couple has agreed on their terms, they can file a joint petition with the court that outlines their proposed terms. If a Judge deems the terms reasonable, they will sign the divorce papers, and the divorce is complete.
If everything goes well, an uncontested divorce is the best-case scenario and can be completed much faster than a contested divorce. Some cases in Florida are finalized within 4 to 6 weeks. However, the lack of formal processes and often no legal representation can leave parties vulnerable to pressure and potentially result in terms that one party is not comfortable with.
The outcomes of your divorce are likely to have lasting impacts on your life for many years, whether this is the property or assets you receive in the settlement, the child custody and child support arrangement you agreed to, or the alimony payments. All these elements could substantially impact your future for the better or worse. Working with an experienced divorce attorney gives you the best chance at securing the desired settlement for you and your family.
Your spouse will likely secure legal representation, and without a lawyer, you are left open to aggressive negotiation tactics. Even if your spouse does not seek legal advice, the tense and emotional nature of divorce can take an emotional toll on both parties. You may hastily agree to terms that are not in your best interests to end the stress and animosity. A lawyer protects you from the emotional distress of a divorce and will ensure that you do not make rushed decisions that are not in your best interests.
In an uncontested divorce, many people assume that because their spouse is not openly contesting their terms, legal representation is not necessary. However, handling this process alone could mean that you are susceptible to manipulation and pressure and may agree to terms you later regret.
In a contested divorce, couples are rarely amicable during the process. In addition, the trial and the court process can often increase animosity between spouses. A divorce attorney will protect you from dealing with this tension and will lead the negotiations and trial process on your behalf. They can also dispute any false allegations or protect you from other complications that arise, while passionately fighting to secure your preferred terms.
Regardless of your circumstances, a divorce attorney will always benefit you during your divorce. Although you may assume that the process will be simple and amicable, unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Couples often struggle to remove emotion from the proceedings and handle their affairs objectively and fairly.
The Family Matters Law Firm will help you to navigate your divorce and defend your legal rights diligently. If you are represented by The Family Matters Law Firm, we will work tirelessly to protect you and fight for the best possible outcome for you and your family. Contact us today at 305-916-4053 to discuss your case.