How long is it going to take? That’s a question every divorce lawyer hears. It might be a short as 120 days or even less on an uncontested divorce when both parties are in agreement and work together. Those are the quickest divorces.
On a contested divorce with complicated financial issues, it could be years. It doesn’t take much for a divorce to be contested. In fact, it the parties aren’t in agreement on any single issue, it’s a contested divorce. The truth is that most divorces are contested. However, most of those settle as a result of one or more mediation conferences. Here’s a brief outline of what a contested divorce case consists of.
Service of Summons and Divorce Petition:
It takes less than a week to get a divorce petition on file. After that comes the personal service of the summons and petition on the respondent. That typically takes another week or two unless he or she is out of town or just plain ducking service. A summons is only good for 20 days. Then, another summons must be issued and served.
20 Days to Answer:
The respondent will have 20 days from the date of service of the summons and petition to answer or otherwise plead to it. If the opposing attorney otherwise pleads to the petition, delays will occur until its resolved. Ultimately, the respondent will be required to answer the petition.
90 Days for Financial Discovery:
Even if the defendant is served a day or two after the filing of the divorce petition, you’re still looking at another 90 days for the exchange of minimum financial discovery. At a very minimum, this consists of pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements and any retirement account statements. In more complicated cases, there will be copies of other documents that are sought. A deposition may even be sought, but those are rare and they only occur in a small minority of cases.
Don’t Forget the Parenting Class:
Successful completion of a 4-hour parenting class is requirement for parties who have children. This can be taken at any time before or after the divorce has been filed.
Most contested divorces settle after mediation which ordinarily takes place four to six months after the date of initial filing. Florida requires it in all contested divorces, and successful mediation will shorten the start to finish timeline. Mediation can be had through the courthouse or through a private mediator which is ordinarily faster, but more expensive. Assuming that mediation is successful, an agreement is filed with the court. The parties can then go to final hearing.
The Final Hearing
Setting the date of your final hearing depends on the schedules of the judge and attorneys. A date will be set for when all three are available. You’ll be notified of the final hearing date. Plan on being there.
In a fully contested case, the above dates are set for longer time frames and go into deeper details. The case could take significantly longer every step of the way. The entire process is adversarial and incredibly expensive. Like most of us, judges would rather be fishing or playing golf than attending to a court call. In most contested cases, you’re looking at six to nine months before final disposition. It’s that 1% that can take years.
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No case is too complex for our divorce attorneys in Tampa. No matter the circumstances surrounding your divorce, we commit ourselves to every case and get serious results.
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