Are you getting divorced in central Florida? If so, it’s important to consult with a qualified Orlando family law attorney who has experience handling divorce cases. That’s true, even if you and your spouse are on the same page and want an uncontested divorce. Divorces can be complicated and things can change quickly. Having an attorney on your side can help to ensure that your rights are protected.
Contact the experienced uncontested divorce lawyers at McMichen, Cinami & Demps to schedule a free consultation. We can help you fully understand your options and stand by your side throughout the process. We’re always available to take your call, so reach out to our law offices to set up a time to discuss your case today.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
Divorces are commonly portrayed in television and movies as full of conflict and animosity. However, in reality, often couples are able to end a marriage amicably and agree on how divorce matters should be resolved.
This is known as an uncontested divorce in Florida. The process results in what is referred to as a marital settlement agreement. The divorce agreement settles all outstanding issues between the couple so that the divorce can be finalized.
These issues include:
How the couple will divide property – including personal items, cars, money in bank accounts, and house(s)
Which spouse will make spousal support (alimony) payments and in what amounts
Note that an uncontested divorce is an alternative to going to court and having a judge decide these issues. This is a great option for spouses that are on the same page, as it gives you more freedom and flexibility in crafting solutions.
Sometimes parties agree on ending the marriage but don’t initially agree on one or more of the major divorce issues. This is common as it can take time to work these matters out. So long as agreement is reached before the dissolution of marriage paperwork is filed, the couple can still pursue an uncontested divorce.
Due to the benefits of an uncontested divorce, it’s generally best to try to see if you and your spouse can qualify. Reaching out to our Orlando family law attorneys can be very helpful if you are having trouble reaching a consensus regarding any divorce matter.
Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce
Now, there are additional advantages to an uncontested divorce beyond you and your spouse creating the terms of the settlement agreement. Specifically, uncontested divorces are generally:
Faster than a contested divorce: The uncontested divorce process eliminates much of the back and forth between a couple during the divorce. A spouse doesn’t need to wait for a response to the petition or other documents filed by the other spouse. The parties also don’t need to wait for the court to schedule a trial, nor deal with potential appeals or other motions.
Less Expensive: In most cases, attorneys will spend less time on the case and fees will be lower than in a contested divorce. Further, there is no need for courtroom preparation or appeals. Finally, while filing fees still apply, you can save on the cost of summons and service process fees, which are required for contested cases.
Not as stressful: You have more control over the outcome and don’t have the uncertainty of going to court. Couples also can avoid the nastiness and conflict that can arise in a prolonged and adversarial legal process.
Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce
Keep in mind that the specific steps involved in filing for divorce can be different depending on your particular situation. Note that in all divorces, Florida law requires that you or your spouse have lived in Florida for the past six months.
In addition, for those getting divorced in Orange County, both spouses must be present at the dissolution hearing. This is to verify that the information contained in the paperwork is correct and that the couple agrees on all of the divorce settlement matters. Remember, this is not a trial as you have already agreed to all of the outstanding issues between you and your spouse.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
Now, there is a more streamlined process for divorce in Florida if you meet certain requirements. In this case, you may file for what is known as a simplified dissolution of marriage. To qualify, you and your spouse must:
Agree to the divorce
Have no children under the age of 18
Not be currently pregnant
Agree on how you wish to split property, and
Agree that neither you nor your spouse will receive alimony payments.
For couples that meet these criteria, either spouse may obtain a simplified dissolution of marriage form from the court. These forms are completed by both spouses and filed with the clerk of the circuit court where the couple lives. Note that you must pay a filing fee when you submit the paperwork. The court will then schedule a hearing to order the final judgment on your divorce.
Dissolution of Marriage with Spousal Support or Children
For couples that agree on all of the issues related to divorce, but do not meet the criteria for a simplified dissolution of marriage, an uncontested divorce is a great option. This is a similar process to a simplified dissolution, but the paperwork is a bit more complex.
Specifically, if you have minor children, you must create a parenting plan. This will specify how physical custody will be divided. Sometimes custody is split 50/50, which is known as joint custody.
In other cases, the child will live primarily with one parent. This parent is known as the custodial parent. If the couple agrees to this arrangement, they must indicate whether the other, non-custodial, parent will have visitation. If visitation is allowed, the plan will indicate what the schedule will be for that parent.
The parents will also need to come to an agreement on how major decisions regarding the children will be made. This is known as legal custody and includes matters related to religious upbringing, education, and medical care. Like physical custody, legal custody can be held jointly by both parents or solely by one parent.
Now, determining both legal and physical custody can be complicated and it will impact the lives of both parents as well as the child. For that reason, it’s important to have an attorney involved that knows how to create workable and fair custody arrangements.
Note that in Florida, parents are also required to submit a financial affidavit. The affidavit is a document that indicates how the child(ren) will receive economic support. Finally, the couple must complete a 4-hour parenting course, approved by the Department of Children & Families.
What Happens If You Can’t Reach an Agreement
Now, sometimes, despite you and your spouse’s best efforts, agreement can’t be reached on one or more of the major divorce issues. If this happens, your case becomes a contested divorce, which proceeds more like a traditional lawsuit.
First, one spouse files a divorce petition and then delivers or “serves” the paperwork on the other spouse. The spouse receiving the documents must then respond to the information contained in the divorce petition.
The matter will then proceed through the discovery process. Here, each spouse collects evidence to support their position. This would include asking each spouse to furnish financial records and other documentation. An example would be the content of certain text messages if the case involves some alleged misconduct (like hiding assets). There may also be witnesses collected to testify on a spouse’s behalf in court.
Now, during any stage of the contested divorce process, it is possible to reach a settlement and avoid going to trial. A couple may also choose to attend mediation. This involves spouses meeting with a neutral third party, referred to as a mediator.
The goal in mediation is to talk through the remaining divorce issues and try to reach an agreement. The mediator’s job will be to help the couple find common ground. However, there is no requirement that the parties work together or reach a consensus during mediation.
Any Disagreements Over Key Issues Will Result in a Contested Divorce
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for a couple to agree to some aspects of the divorce but not others. For example, the spouses may agree on how to divide the marital property, but not agree on a custody arrangement. If no agreement can be reached before the final hearing, all outstanding issues will be resolved by a judge.
Judges presiding over divorce matters in Florida will divide property based on what is considered fair. This differs from some states where the property is divided equally. The court will consider several factors, so it’s important to have an attorney involved that knows what evidence to present to the court that would be favorable to your case.
For custody matters, the court will consider the best interests of the child. Like property division, these decisions are not always predictable and require a judge to weigh several factors.
Contact an Orlando Uncontested Attorney Today
If you are getting an uncontested divorce in Orlando, you will want to have an experienced family law attorney involved early on in the process. It can be important to reach out for assistance before you agree to the divorce terms or file any paperwork.
At McMichen, Cinami & Demps, our divorce attorneys in Orlando have decades of experience helping clients navigate the most delicate issues in their lives. We have extensive experience in mediation and in negotiating divorce settlements. By pursuing an uncontested divorce instead of going to trial, we can help you save time, stress and money. Even if you think you cannot come to terms with your spouse, we have experience navigating and resolving these challenging situations. Contact our Orlando, FL law firm today for a free initial consultation.