The two part question that is frequently asked of me is “how long will this take and how much will it cost?”
That’s not always an easy question to answer. It depends. It depends on what the issues are that are involved; it depends on whether or not there are minor children; and it depends on how reasonable the parties are that are involved in the proceeding.
Generally, however, a divorce or dissolution of marriage in Florida, commences with the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. Other supporting documentation, such as a financial affidavit, compliance with mandatory disclosure, UCCJEA, request for production of records, as well as interrogatories, can also be filed at that time, or they can supplement the file and be filed at a later date.
A summons is issued by the clerk’s office, directing the other party to file a written, responsive pleading, usually an answer, within 20 days of receipt of the paperwork. The paperwork must be personally served by the county sheriff’s department, or someone authorized by law to serve papers, in lieu of the sheriff.
Mandatory disclosure requires that each of the parties voluntarily disclose certain basic financial information that they have in their possession. Additional records can also be requested by each party.
If everone involved is acting in a civil and rational matter, they can sit down togeter, usually with the assistance of their respective attorneys, and possibly with a mediator, and work out the terms of their settlement. Once their agreement is reduced to writing, it can be entered into evidence at a previously scheduled motion calendar hearing, and the court can dissolve the marriage.
This process, although it does happen frequently, may not necessarily be the norm. If the parties are not able to come to terms on their own, the case will be settled and resolved by a judge. Remember, a divorce is like any other civil case; once the litigants are able to settle the case, it is essentially over. If there is no settlement, the case moves forward through the system, sometimes slowly, until it is decided upon by the judge.
Most, if not alll lawyers in Florida, especially in South Florida, charge by the hour for their time. There is simply no way to predict the time that could be involved in a family law case, so expecting to pay a flat fee for services would be virtually unheard of, unless there was an agreement reached right at the very beginning of any proceeding.
A divorce can be resolved in as little as 20 days, or it could continue on for months, even years.