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How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?

The Spence Law Firm June 4, 2024

Divorce is an emotionally-challenging process, but knowing what to expect can help reduce some stress and feelings of uncertainty. At The Spence Law Firm, we have extensive experience handling divorce cases across Florida, ensuring our clients are well-supported through each step of the process. 

Every divorce is different, so your timeline will vary from others' depending on your situation. Also, understanding the factors that can affect the duration of a divorce in Florida can give you a better idea of what to expect. 

An uncontested divorce is typically resolved more quickly. Uncontested divorces are defined as those where both parties agree on all issues, including child custody, property division, and more. On average, an uncontested divorce in Florida can be finalized in as little as a few weeks to a few months.  

On the other hand, contested divorces usually take longer to resolve due to the necessity of legal intervention to settle disputes. The process can range from several months to over a year, depending on the complexity of issues like asset division, custody arrangements, and alimony. The involvement of mediators and court schedules can also extend the timeline. 

No matter what shape your divorce takes, working with an experienced family law attorney can help keep everything on track. Reach out to our team at The Spence Law Firm in Orlando, Florida, for a free consultation and personalized advice.  

Overview of the Divorce Process in Florida 

The divorce process in Florida begins with one spouse, known as the petitioner, filing a divorce petition in the circuit court of the county where they reside. This document outlines the grounds for divorce and the relief sought, such as property division, child custody, and spousal support. For an uncontested divorce, both parties must have already agreed on all aspects of the separation, streamlining this initial phase. 

After the petition is filed, the other spouse, known as the respondent, must be formally served with the divorce papers. The respondent is then required to file an answer within 20 days, either agreeing with or contesting the terms proposed by the petitioner. In uncontested divorces, this step often involves submitting a signed settlement agreement that details the terms both parties have agreed to. 

Contested divorces proceed to the discovery phase if no settlement can be reached. During discovery, both parties exchange relevant information and documents, which may include financial records, asset valuations, and childcare plans. This phase is crucial for building each party's case and can be time-consuming. 

If disputes remain unresolved after discovery, mediation is typically the next step. A neutral mediator facilitates discussions between the parties to help them reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. While mediation can resolve many issues, any remaining disagreements proceed to trial. 

In a divorce trial, both parties present their evidence and arguments before a judge. The judge then makes rulings on all contested issues, such as asset distribution, child custody, and alimony. The exact timeline for reaching a final judgment varies, depending on the complexity of the case and the court's schedule. 

Upon resolving all matters, either through a settlement or a court ruling, a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is issued, officially ending the marriage. Both contested and uncontested divorces conclude with this final judgment, but the path to reach this point can vary significantly in time and complexity. 

Expedited Divorce Options 

For those seeking a quicker resolution, Florida offers a simplified dissolution of marriage. To qualify, both parties must consent, have no minor children, and agree on the division of assets and debts. While this process is expedited, you should consider both its advantages and potential drawbacks with legal counsel. 

While the expedited divorce options, such as simplified dissolution of marriage, can provide a faster resolution to marital separation, there are potential drawbacks to consider. One of the main drawbacks is that the simplified process may not adequately address complicated financial situations or future implications, such as tax consequences, retirement fund divisions, and hidden assets. Without thorough scrutiny, you may inadvertently agree to terms that could adversely affect your financial stability in the long run. 

Furthermore, the expedited process requires that both parties are in complete agreement on all terms, which can be challenging if there are underlying conflicts or power imbalances. This requirement can sometimes pressure one party into accepting terms that they may not fully understand or agree with, leading to possible regrets or legal challenges in the future. 

Due to these complexities, having legal counsel is invaluable even in an expedited divorce. A knowledgeable attorney can help ensure that your rights and interests are adequately protected. They can provide a thorough review of any agreements, offer advice on the legal ramifications of your decisions, and suggest alternative solutions you might not have considered.  

Tips for a Smoother Divorce Process 

Streamlining the divorce process can ease some of the associated stresses. Here are some practical tips: 

  • Seek legal representation: Divorce can be complicated, and having an experienced attorney on your side can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights. 

  • Choose the right process: Determine whether a traditional or expedited divorce option would be best suited for your situation. 

  • Consider mediation: Mediation can facilitate mutual agreement and reduce conflict. 

  • Communicate clearly: Open and honest communication between parties can prevent misunderstandings and delays.  

  • Gather important documents ahead of time: Having necessary documents on hand can save time and prevent delays. 

  • Set realistic expectations: Doing so can help manage emotions and avoid disappointments.  

Simplifying the Process 

Navigating a divorce timeline in Florida involves considering various factors, such as the type of divorce and the legal process. The Spence Law Firm provides professional and compassionate support to guide clients through these challenges. 

If you're considering a divorce and need expert legal advice, we encourage you to reach out to us for support through every stage. We serve clients throughout Orange County, Florida, and the surrounding areas, including Oak Ridge, Pine Hills, Lockhart, Maitland, Azalea Park, Osceola County, Lake County, and Seminole County.