Any couple together long enough will go through difficult patches of time where one is out of sync with the other, and many discussions end in argument. Most of the time, moving past the rough period intact is possible. However, sometimes the problems are deeper than surface disagreements, making it impossible to stay together. At this point, which is different for everyone, divorce enters the picture, and spouses must begin the process of unraveling their lives. While this process is often painful and demanding, spouses sometimes find their relationship as exes is better than when married. Once the decision is made to dissolve the marriage, the next step is to determine what type of divorce is appropriate. All divorces legally end a marriage, but not all divorce cases are processed in the same manner. A recent article discussed the divorce of the mayor of Cape Coral from her husband after less than three months of marriage, and noted that the couple filed a simplified divorce petition. Simplified divorce is one option for couples seeking to end a marriage, but is often unavailable to most divorce petitioners for reasons that will be discussed below. Selecting the correct type of divorce petition is a crucial aspect of court procedure. If the wrong one is filed, the case will be dismissed and will require a re-filing of the appropriate type, along with additional time and money utilized by both parties.
Simplified divorce is a faster and less expensive divorce process for those couples with no issues to resolve. Both parties must be in agreement on all of the following points, and jointly sign the petition for divorce. All of the following must be true in order to qualify for simplified divorce:
- both spouses agree the marriage is irretrievably broken;
- the parties do not share minor or dependent children, nor is there a pregnancy;
- the parties agree on the division of all their assets and liabilities;
- neither party is asking for alimony;
- at least one spouse has resided in Florida for the previous six months; and
- both parties are willing to jointly attend the final hearing before the judge.
One important right this simplified process takes away is the right to examine the other spouse through the collection of information before trial or as a witness during trial. This happens because simplified dissolution requires both parties to waive the right to a trial and appeal. This limitation on information is further expanded to the disclosure of financial information. While both parties are required to submit a financial affidavit, any further requests for financial information are not always enforceable.
If a couple does not meet the criteria for a simplified divorce or declines to consent to the waiver of rights, a regular divorce petition is the option left to them. Regular divorce cases begin when one party files a petition for divorce. In addition to requesting a divorce, the petition includes any other demands a party may have, like specific property division terms, alimony, child support, or parenting time. Where it goes from here depends on whether the divorce case is contested or uncontested.
The other spouse always has 20 days to respond after the receiving divorce petition, and if the response agrees with the demands of the petition, making the case uncontested, the parties can ask for a final hearing date to conclude the matter once the required financial disclosure is complete. If, however, the other party files a counter-petition disputing the demands listed in the petition or makes new demands, a Notice for Trial must be filed, as this case is contested. A contested divorce is like any other lawsuit where the parties exchange information and present arguments to the judge through filing additional documents or attending live hearings. This is a lengthier process, but may be necessary if the parties cannot agree, or have another type challenge preventing resolution of the case.
Regardless of the kind of divorce petition you file, you are permitted to retain legal counsel to represent your interests. In divorce cases, where the outcome has significant and long-lasting effects on a person’s daily life, it is important to work with a divorce or family law attorney to ensure you do not unnecessarily give up your rights and fully understand the legal consequences of your decision. The Tampa Bay law firm, All Family Law Group, P.A., will evaluate the unique facts of your case and guide you through the divorce process to its end. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+