In Florida, a divorce is considered dissolution and fault is no longer a requirement for filing. By statute, dissolutions can be: 1) simplified, 2) uncontested, 3) default and 4) contested. The most complicated and time-consuming dissolution is a contested one. Here, a spouse may dispute the distribution of property and debts, alimony, custody, child support and visitation.
In a contested divorce, one spouse is the Petitioner and the other is the Respondent. Like an uncontested divorce, the Petitioner files the documents while the Respondent, may or may not answer the action. This process initiates when the Petitioner files a:
- Civil Cover Sheet
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, depending upon the circumstances of the couple. The forms are a) Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children, b) Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Dependent or Minor Children or c) Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with No Dependent Children or Property.
- The petitioner must file a Family Law Financial Affidavit (long or short form), Notice of Social Security Number, Notice of Current Address and Marital Settlement Agreement. The Family Law Financial Affidavit is normally accompanied by the Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, which certifies that the other spouse has provided required financial information to the Petitioner.
- Family Law Financial Affidavit including a Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure, which certifies that the other spouse has provided required financial information to the Petitioner
- Notice of Social Security Number
- Notice of Current Address
- Marital Settlement Agreement.
If the Respondent disputes the filing, usually for financial reasons, the Petitioner may have to litigate and file a Subpoena for the Production of Documents from a Nonparty. Here, mediation can be a more successful legal route for parties to finalize their outstanding issues. Pre-suit mediation can help couples avoid litigation and reduce their legal costs. In pre-suit mediation couples can craft settlement terms without a court hearing.
f the spouses cannot achieve a settlement then a divorce trial is set. A Final Judgement cannot be prepared until a settlement is reached — either by agreement of the parties or by the judge’s trial ruling.