Many divorces share two things in common: 1) they parties agree that they should divorce, 2) The parties agree as to what should happen after their divorce.
Agreeing to a divorce is the easy part. Unpacking an entire marriage in a way that’s fair and satisfying to each party is the difficult part.
When the parties to a divorce don’t have children, many assets or any need for support, there is not a lot to “unpack” so, in Florida, a simplified divorce is available.
The Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure provide both instructions for filing a simplified petition for dissolution of marriage and the forms to fill out to request a simplified divorce.
The form is very particular as to who is eligible for a simplified divorce.
- You and your spouse agree that the marriage cannot be saved.
- You and your spouse have no minor or dependent child(ren) together, the wife does not have any minor or dependent children born during the marriage, and the wife is not now pregnant.
- You and your spouse have worked out how the two of you will divide the things that you both own (your assets) and who will pay what part of the money you both owe (your liabilities), and you are both satisfied with this division.
- You are not seeking support (alimony) from your spouse, and vice versa.
- You are willing to give up your right to trial and appeal.
- You and your spouse are both willing to go into the clerk’s office to sign the petition (not necessarily together).
- You and your spouse are both willing to go to the final hearing (at the same time).
If you meet all of these requirements, there are still a lot of not-so-simple steps. After filing the simplified petition for dissolution of the form on-line or in person at the Collier County Courthouse. You must attach a signed Marital Settlement Agreement.
The standard form for a Marital Settlement Agreement provided by the Florida courts is woefully incapable of handling all but the simplest divorces.
If either person has any 401ks or pensions, there is no language as to how those assets should be divided to avoid a tax penalty.
If the parties own real estate together, there is no language for a scheduled sale of the home or the signing of a quit claim deed to release the home to the other party.
If there are mutual credit cards, there is no schedule for paying those cards and closing them.
Sadly, the simplified divorce forms only work for the simplest of divorces.
Uncontested Divorces Using An Attorney
A divorce can still be done fairly simply and effectively if the parties do not meet the Florida simplified divorce qualifications.
In my law office, if a person comes to me seeking a divorce, I will assume that the divorce will be uncontested. I use my client’s completed financial affidavit and completed parenting plan to begin crafting final documents. There may be many blank spaces left for both the client and the opposing party to fill in. Even incomplete final divorce documents help isolate the remaining issues and educate both parties as to the structure of their final settlement.
The final documents must be prepared at some point in the divorce case so we might as well prepare them right away to relieve the anxiety of both parties and move us so many steps closer to settlement.
After reviewing the final documents the opposing party will usually submit their own financial affidavit, submit proposed changes to my office or retain their own attorney.
Contested Divorces…For Now
Just because the divorce isn’t completely agreed does not mean the case is contested. 98% of all divorces end up settling and thereby become uncontested divorces.
Usually a divorce is happening per the person who filed the divorce petition’s schedule. The other party is still absorbing the reality of divorce and may not be ready to settle right away.
After the respondent of the divorce is served, the parties are required to exchange initial financial documents like the financial affidavit within 45 days.
Upon receipt of the financial documents, almost all the financial issues can be resolved with a quick analysis of the numbers. Child support is a calculation. Division of marital assets in Florida “must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution” Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.075(1)
For some couples, quick calculations may resolve all outstanding issues.
But there are lots of exceptions to the above rules regarding finances and divorce….and alimony has almost no black and white rules. Parenting time, of course, cannot be determined with a mathematical formula.
In cases where there are still outstanding disagreements after preparing proposed final documents, the parties can be referred to mediation.
Typically, a lot of those unresolved issues get resolved almost immediately via motions for temporary relief. A judge’s ruling on a temporary motion usually lets the parties know “which way the wind is blowing” as to final rulings and further encourages settlement.
If you’d like to learn more about uncontested divorce in Naples, Florida, contact my law office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer.