What Happens in Florida Divorce Court with a Contested Divorce

What Happens During a Contested Divorce?

Of course, the preferred outcome during a divorce is that it is uncontested and both parties are in agreement as to how many assets will go to whom as well as who gains custody of any children. However, this is not always possible, and a contested divorce is the result instead. Plain and simple, a contested divorce is when two parties cannot agree on how to divide marital assets or any other decisions of custody or alimony.  We’ve outlined the divorce process for you.

How Long Does It Take?

A contested divorce will take about 12 months, four times longer as an average uncontested divorce. This time period will vary quite a bit depending on how many aspects of it are uncontested. Note that even a single relatively minor thing that is not agreed upon will cause the case to become a contested one even if the two parties agree on the vast majority of the issues. However, in this case, it should take a much shorter time period to complete than would be the case if disagreements occur with a majority of the things that need to be ruled upon.

Court hearings will need to be scheduled and the judge will likely schedule mediation to encourage an agreement between the parties. Depending on how many hearings are necessary to resolve disputes will add to the length of proceedings.

First Step

The initial step is the deliverance of the summons for a dissolution of marriage. This needs to be done by a process server.  Typically, it’s done by a Deputy Sheriff who is 18 or older, and it must be given to the spouse or somebody he or she lives with or has authorized to legally accept his or her papers. This will hopefully be a short step in the process, but it can sometimes take weeks to complete if a current address is not known for your spouse.

The recipient will then have 20 days to respond with an answer or a counter-petition although this can be extended for a variety of reasons.

Releasing of Financial Documents

Both parties will then need to release financial information such as bank statements, paycheck stubs, tax returns and information related to things like stocks, bonds, retirement accounts and property owned. See our checklist of financial documents.  This step will usually take a few months, but that can vary a bit depending on how prepared you are and things like how adversarial the case is and how much money is being discussed.

Mediation

Florida requires mediation in all divorces which are scheduled for trial. A judge will order mediation as an attempt for the parties to find a resolution to their disputes.  Both parties will attend the mediation with their respective divorce mediation attorneys.  An independent mediation will listen to both sides and have a list of items that need to be resolved.  The mediation will work with all parties to reach a resolution for some, if not all, of the issues so that a trial can be avoided.  However, sometimes mediation will not result in an agreement, and divorce court is necessary.

Trial

The trial itself usually ranges in length from a few hours to a couple of weeks.  If necessary, divorce court will involve witness testimony and evidence discussion. However, the preparation for divorce court often takes several months and tends to add a bit of cost, but sometimes this extra step is necessary for a variety of reasons.

Depositions sometimes take place in advance of a trial, especially if the facts of the case are in doubt. When depositions occur, that usually indicates that the length of time needed to complete the process will be extended.

I Need Help

If you think your divorce is heading to divorce court and you are in need of an experienced contested divorce attorney, contact Eric C. Cheshire for a consultation. Attorney Cheshire has been helping individuals navigate the divorce process for almost 30 years.  Cheshire Family Law proudly serves clients in the West Palm Beach and surrounding areas.  Fill out our form to request a divorce consultation