By contrast, a contested divorce includes:
* Required disclosures of property, income, tax records, paystubs, debts, business interests, and premarital agreements
* Depositions of parties and witnesses
* Hearings on temporary spousal support and child custody
* Psychological evaluations of children and parents
Depending on the hourly rate of the attorney, location, whether the parties have minor children, and extent of assets involved, a a contested divorce can run generally between $5,000 and $20,000, perhaps even more. The trial and pretrial activities in a contested divorce may also leave the spouses and children emotionally taxed beyond that inherent with the reality of the divorce itself.
When you agree on things before approaching the court, you avoid a trial, hearings, and the voluminous time, costs, and paperwork getting ready for trial. Below, we explain what is involved in a divorce case and how the parties can achieve an uncontested divorce.
The Prerequisites for a Uncontested Divorce in Florida
Agree on the Grounds for Divorce
Florida law requires spouses seeking an uncontested divorce to agree that the marriage is “irrevocably broken.” This reflects the no-fault approach to declaring the marriage as over. You need not show adultery, cruelty, or other fault, regardless whether you or your spouse contest the divorce.
Agree on Alimony (or No Alimony)
Spouses in uncontested divorce also agree on how to handle alimony. The agreement may provide for no support or a certain amount either permanently or for a set period of time.
If a spouse asks for it, whether a court awards it, how much, and for how long turn on the dependency of the recipient and the paying spouse’s ability to comply with an alimony order. Spousal support seeks generally to maintain the dependent’s ability to meet living expenses or a standard of living during and after the divorce for some period of time.
A spouse’s behavior typically does not factor into alimony. Instead, if the parties dispute over alimony, the attorneys and the courts wrestle with issues such as whether to award alimony, the amount, and how long the recipient is to receive it.
The answers to these questions lie factors such as:
* The length of the marriage
* The physical, emotional, and mental health and conditions of the spouses
* The needs of each spouse
* The standard of living to which the recipient spouse became accustomed during the marriage
* The income and employment, vocation, or businesses of the spouses
* The property and assets of the respective spouse’s
Without agreement on alimony, you and your spouse likely will expend numerous hours gathering documents and information to show dependency and the ability to pay.
Agree on Property Distribution
By default, spouses each get half of the marital assets upon divorce. Florida law treats as marital property land, buildings, cars, jewelry, stocks, bonds, and other property acquired by either spouse during the marriage. The contributions and additions to pensions, 401(k) plans, and other retirement plans during the marriage also qualify as marital property. Courts may deviate from an equal split by considering factors such as the length of marriage, the contributions of a spouse to the value of the marital assets, and the needs of the spouses.
A property settlement agreement resolves matters such as:
* Which spouse keeps the home or whether it is sold and the net proceeds divided equally
* Assumption of the mortgage and individual responsibility for specific debts
* Division or retention of respective 401(k) and retirement plans
* Allocation of vehicles
How to Reach Agreement
Spouses can make their divorces uncontested through a settlement agreement. Family law attorneys help parties negotiate and draft agreements to address spousal support and property division.
Premarital, or prenuptial, agreements also take these issues out of dispute. Often, prenuptial agreements recite that each spouse can independently acquire and own property during the marriage free of the claims of the other. Parties may eliminate alimony and decide who maintains the marital residence in the case of separation. Florida law requires that prenuptials be in writing, signed by the prospective spouses, and be based on a full disclosure of assets, income, and debts.
If you and your spouse have no minor children and agree on all things, you can avail yourself of the simplified dissolution of marriage procedure. You may file with the court where you live a Form 12.901(a), “Petition For Simplified Dissolution” if you have no children, marital assets, or alimony claims. Both spouses must sign. Florida also provides a “Marital Separation Agreement” form for simplified dissolutions.
Although neither spouse contests anything, the spouses must appear before a judge for entry of the final divorce decree. Through a simplified dissolution, the divorce can take as little as 30 days to complete.
Uncontested Divorce With Children
Spouses with minor children can seek an uncontested divorce but may not use the simplified dissolution procedure.
Instead, the divorce proceeding starts with a “Petition For Dissolution of Marriage With Dependent Child(ren).” Along with the financial and property information, the spouses indicate on the petition their agreement as to the “parenting plan.” This indicates who will have responsibility for the care and custody or the children or whether the parents will share care and custody, visitation, time-sharing, the amount of child support, and who will pay the support.
Even if the parties agree on the parenting plan, the court must approve the plan and has the authority to reject it. Courts have the power and charge to safeguard the best interests and general welfare of the child. Further, the spouses must complete a “Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course” approved by the Florida Department of Children and Families before obtaining the final divorce decree. Such a class covers topics such as:
• The emotional and mental effects of divorce on the children and spouses
• Legal rules and concepts on shared responsibility
• Financial responsibilities in the care of children
• Relationships in the family
• Skills for developing and maintaining relationships after the separation and divorce
• Communicating with children and other spouse during and after divorce
• Child abuse, spousal abuse, and domestic violence
Tampa Uncontested Divorce Lawyer:
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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