When a marriage ends, wanting to move on quickly to the next phase of life is understandable. That said, filing for divorce in Florida normally involves more than signing a form and waiting for a rubber stamp approval. The divorce attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group can help you with the appropriate steps to ensure optimal results.
So, how long does a divorce take in Florida? The complexity of your case and whether the divorce is contested are major factors impacting your timeline. If both spouses agree on all aspects of the divorce petition, you can finalize the divorce in a few months. However, any disagreements—even seemingly minor ones—between the divorcing parties can significantly lengthen the timeline.
The O’Mara Law Group provides high-quality legal representation to people filing for divorce in Florida. Our skilled attorneys are ready to navigate the divorce process and help you move on to the next chapter of your life as smoothly as possible. Contact us to schedule your free, confidential consultation.
Timeline for a Simplified Divorce
In Florida, eligible couples can file for a simplified divorce, also known as a simplified dissolution of marriage. This kind of divorce takes the least amount of time to complete. To be eligible for a simplified divorce, all of the following must be true:
Further, as with all Florida divorces, you or your spouse must reside in Florida for at least six months before the filing. Once you and your spouse sign the required forms at your county clerk’s office, you must appear before a Florida judge to finalize the divorce.
The court clerk may provide you with a date when you file the petition, or you may receive it in the mail. The date will depend on the judge’s availability. If everything is in order and you obtain a hearing with the judge quickly, you can finalize a simplified divorce within a month.
Timeline for an Uncontested Divorce
Uncontested divorces are appropriate for couples with dependent children or jointly owned property when they have come to a mutual understanding of all aspects of the divorce, including child support, alimony, property, and custody plans. In other words, there are no issues to settle.
To initiate an uncontested divorce, one spouse must file the appropriate petition for dissolution of marriage, and the other spouse must respond with an answer that agrees to everything in the petition. Both parties must also comply with mandatory disclosure rules, which require them to provide financial information, such as income tax returns, bank statements, and paystubs.
Once all these requirements are met, the petitioner can request a final hearing before the judge from the court. Again, the hearing date is subject to the judge’s availability. You can expect the following timeline when filing for an uncontested divorce:
All in all, you can normally expect to finalize an uncontested divorce within three to four months. Due to their expertise in handling the necessary paperwork and scheduling hearings, working with an experienced family lawyer can expedite the process of securing an uncontested divorce.
Timeline for a Contested Divorce
This kind of divorce takes the longest to work out. As the name suggests, in a contested divorce, spouses have disagreements that need to be resolved. Typically, the issues involve time spent with children, child support, alimony, property division, or debt. A contested divorce goes through several phases.
1. Preparing the Case
As with other kinds of divorce in Florida, the contested divorce process begins with a petition for dissolution of the marriage. In the petition, the requesting spouse can outline their proposed terms concerning things like child custody, parenting, alimony, child support, and the distribution of financial assets and debts.
Your divorce attorney will discuss the law governing your proposed divorce terms with you before filing the petition with a local court. Depending on the circumstances of your case, other forms may also be necessary. By working closely with your attorney, this process can normally be completed fairly quickly, especially if you have good financial records easily available.
Spouses who disagree with the terms proposed in a divorce petition must respond with an answer and potentially a counterpetition. In the counterpetition, they will outline what they believe are fair terms for the divorce. They have 20 days to file an answer and counterpetition.
2. Mandatory Disclosure
In contested divorces, both parties must share financial information with the courts and each other via mandatory disclosure. This ensures that no party is unfairly hiding assets to the disadvantage of the other. Relevant financial information may include tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs, and other details such as retirement plan savings. You and your spouse may request additional financial information from each other during the disclosure period.
Sometimes, attorneys will also request a verbal or written deposition to allow them to question the client’s spouse regarding the divorce and the arrangements they seek. Verbal depositions are normally recorded. Either way, the deposition will become part of the divorce case file.
The disclosure period may last upwards of three months. In a highly contested divorce, it could potentially take longer.
In some cases, Florida courts require spouses to attend mediation to help resolve a contested divorce. In mediation, a neutral third party, known as a mediator, evaluates pending disputes and attempts to help both sides reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediators cannot make binding decisions, and they cannot force either spouse to agree to a proposed settlement.
However, mediation can help divorcing spouses avoid a costly trial that will dig into their marital assets. It also allows them to flexibly and collaboratively craft a resolution to their differences without forcing a court to otherwise apply rigid standards required by law.
The mediation timeline will depend on the availability of both spouses and the mediator. Usually, mediation begins around four to five months after the divorce petition is filed.
4. Final Hearing
A final hearing occurs once both spouses resolve (or fail to resolve) their differences regarding disputed issues. If they find some common ground, they can avoid the expense and headache associated with a full-fledged divorce trial.
Instead, they would simply attend a hearing in which the presiding judge will make a final ruling on the divorce. Your attorney will coordinate with the court and your spouse’s attorney to set a date for the final hearing. You can normally expect it to occur within a month or two after agreeing to a divorce settlement.
However, if there are still unresolved issues requiring the presiding judge to step in, the hearing process may last longer. Both sides will need time to prepare their arguments for the judge. At this point, the remaining timeline will vary from case to case. Your attorney can advise on the expected length to conclude your case if you need a judge to rule on outstanding issues.
Additional Factors That May Affect Your Divorce
The information we’ve covered gives a general idea of how long a divorce may take in Florida. However, there is significant room for variation. This will depend largely on the nature and complexity of your case.
For example, it may take longer to wrap up your divorce if you have a complex financial situation, such as having significant assets or property. Attorneys on both sides will spend more time during the discovery process to ensure they have all the necessary details before attempting a resolution.
The presiding court’s availability can also significantly impact your timeline. You can expect a longer wait if the judge’s calendar is packed. If the divorce involves an active-duty military spouse who travels frequently, this can also impact case scheduling. Finally, unforeseen events (e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic) can also bog courts down.
Count on the Florida Divorce Attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group to Efficiently Handle Your Case
A divorce can be a highly emotional experience, and spouses may find it difficult to agree on key issues, such as children and assets. Hiring a skilled Orlando family law attorney at O’Mara Law Group is the best way to avoid costly mistakes that can slow down your case.
Our team, led by acclaimed trial attorney Mark O’Mara, has extensive experience handling divorces. Let us put our experience to work for you. Contact us today to schedule your free, confidential consultation.