Florida, like other states, has several types of divorce options. The type you choose can significantly impact the process, cost, and outcome of your divorce. Here, we’ll take a deep dive into the three primary types of divorce in Florida: Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, Uncontested Divorce, and Contested Divorce.
Understanding Simplified Dissolution of Marriage:
A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage is a unique and streamlined divorce process available to a select few. To qualify, you must have no minor children from the marriage and agree with your spouse on all aspects of your divorce, including asset division and alimony.
This divorce route is popular among those who wish to handle their divorce independently, without the assistance of an attorney. It offers a quicker, less complicated, and less expensive option than a traditional divorce. However, it comes with a significant drawback: both spouses must be present at the final hearing before the judge. This requirement might be inconvenient for some, particularly those living far apart or with busy schedules.
Eligibility for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in Florida hinges on several conditions:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken.
- There are no minor or dependent children born during the marriage, and the wife is not currently pregnant.
- Both spouses have agreed on how to divide shared assets and liabilities, and both are satisfied with this division.
- Neither spouse is seeking alimony.
- Both spouses are willing to give up their rights to trial and appeal.
- Both parties are willing to sign the petition (not necessarily together).
- Both spouses are willing to go to the final hearing (at the same time).
If these conditions are met, a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage can be a practical and efficient way to end a marriage in Florida.
Understanding Uncontested Divorce:
An Uncontested Divorce is another streamlined option if you and your spouse agree on all divorce-related matters. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses must agree on issues like child support, custody, visitation, division of marital assets and liabilities, and alimony. If any disagreements arise during the process, the divorce may become contested.
Uncontested Divorce holds a significant advantage in its quick finalization. The absence of disputes to resolve accelerates the process, making it swifter than a Contested Divorce. It is also typically less expensive because it requires less court involvement and potentially no lawyer’s involvement.
Considering Self-representation in Divorce?
Legal fees can be a significant concern in divorce proceedings. As such, you may be contemplating representing yourself in your divorce. Known as “pro se” representation, it is entirely legal and can save money. However, it is only advisable in certain situations.
You may contemplate self-representation if you:
- Aren’t dealing with domestic violence.
- Aren’t requesting alimony, or both spouses have agreed upon alimony terms in a written agreement.
- Don’t have retirement funds or pensions to divide.
- Don’t have significant marital assets or debt to divide.
- Don’t have children involved, or if there are, both spouses agree to timesharing and child support.
Even meeting these conditions, you should still consider carefully before proceeding without an attorney. An attorney can advise you legally, protect your interests, and guide you through the complex legal system.
If you still decide to proceed on your own, it’s essential to come to a mutual agreement regarding your assets and liabilities division. Both spouses should write this agreement formally, sign it, and have it notarized with two witnesses present.
Remember to check the official website of your state court for resources for “pro se” litigants. Be mindful that there are numerous deadlines and specific legal procedures that can affect your rights if not properly followed.
An Additional Note on Uncontested Divorce:
Like Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, uncontested divorces usually take a shorter amount of time to finalize. This time-saving aspect can be a significant benefit for those looking to move on quickly from the divorce process. But remember, this type of divorce requires full agreement on all issues from both parties. This agreement can sometimes be challenging to achieve without open communication and a willingness to compromise.
Understanding Contested Divorce:
In contrast, a contested divorce is one where the divorcing spouses cannot agree on one or more issues. This could involve disputes about how to divide assets and liabilities or whether one spouse should pay alimony to the other.
If you’re facing a contested divorce, it’s important to understand that the court will decide on pending issues. These can include asset division, time-sharing, parental responsibility, division of debts and property, the award of alimony, and child support.
Contested divorces often take longer to resolve than uncontested divorces due to the complexities involved and the need for court intervention. This can extend the process anywhere between three months to over a year. Despite the extended time frame, a contested divorce might be necessary if there are significant disagreements that you and your spouse cannot resolve independently.
Contested divorces can also be riskier because the judge will ultimately decide on the terms of the divorce, and these may not necessarily align with your preferences. Hence, having an attorney represent your interests during a contested divorce is a strong recommendation.
Understanding the three types of divorce in Florida — Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, Uncontested Divorce, and Contested Divorce — is a critical first step towards choosing the right path for you. Consider factors like complexity of your situation, agreement level between you and your spouse, cost, and how much time you’re willing to commit to the process.
Seeking advice from a legal professional is always a good idea, especially when dealing with something as significant as divorce. While self-representation can be appealing for its cost-saving benefits, it’s essential to consider the possible risks and challenges. Remember that a skilled attorney can provide valuable guidance and help protect your interests.
Whatever decision you make, ensure it’s the one that best suits your unique situation and sets you up for a fair and reasonable outcome. Remember, the goal of any divorce process should be an equitable resolution that allows all parties to move forward positively.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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