The Law Office of William B. Bennett | St. Petersburg, FL | Guiding You Through The Difficult Process of Divorce Procedures.
Divorce can be an emotionally painful process for all members of a family, not to mention expensive. To make matters worse, many courts in Florida move very slowly. As a valued client, our goal is to effectively educate you about the Divorce Procedures in St. Petersburg. We will work with you and all sides involved to help move the process along as quickly as possible.
The steps involved with divorce procedures in Florida are pretty straight forward. We will help you navigate each step so there are no mistakes that could hold up getting you to the end of the process as fast as possible.
Can Anyone Represent Me During A Divorce?
County clerks, judges, paralegals, as well as your spouse’s legal team can not and should not give you any legal advice. Only an experienced family law attorney or yourself can represent your interests in any divorce procedures.
What Is The Difference Between Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage?
In the State of Florida, the legal community uses the term “dissolution of marriage”, which is another way to refer to “divorce”. They technically both mean the same thing.
If you have no children, no one is pregnant and can agree on how property is distributed in a divorce, you can qualify for what is known as “simplified dissolution of marriage” in the State of Florida, which actually can be done without hiring a lawyer. However, if you do not qualify, then you must file for a “regular dissolution of marriage”.
When parties cannot agree on property rights or when children are involved, it is strongly recommended that you hired an experienced divorce attorney to walk you through the divorce procedures.
How To Start Divorce Proceedings
A regular dissolution of marriage can be a complicated process and every case has different issues to work through, but as a general rule, the steps outlined below are the steps needed in most divorce procedures:
File A Petition For Divorce
In St. Petersburg, a regular dissolution of marriage starts when one spouse files a petition for divorce from their partner. This is done in the court located where the couple currently lives or where the filing partner currently lives. This petition must state specifically that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and go on to make a request of what is needed from the circuit courts.
The forms to start this process can be downloaded from the Florida Courts website. The person who files the petition is known as “the petitioner” in the case going forward. It is recommended that you consult with a divorce lawyer before filing a petition for regular dissolution of marriage.
Filing A Written Answer To A Divorce Petition
During the divorce procedures, the spouse who did not file the petition has 20 days to file a written answer to the petition once received. In the answer, the responder must explain to the court what parts of the petition they agree with, what parts they do not agree with, what parts are true and what parts they have no knowledge about. The responder can also submit a counter complaint and their own petition for divorce in order to bring up additional information to the courts. The petitioner must then have to file an answer to the counter petition.
If you have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, contact the Law Offices of William B. Bennett, P.A. today for a free consultation and guidance on how to properly file an answer.
The Discovery Process
During the discovery process, there is a financial affidavit that must be filed within 45 days of the original petition being filed. There is also other financial information that must be filed with the case during this time known as “mandatory disclosures.” These include documents such as tax returns, proof of income, credit card statements and bank account statements.
In this part of the divorce procedures, both parties have the right to find out what information the other has in the case. They will have to reveal details about each other and must submit under oath any requested documents to the other party.
In most parts of Florida, you will be required to go through the mediation process in order to see if both parties can reach an agreement on any outstanding issues that were not previously agreed upon. There is an exception to this process if one party is the victim of domestic abuse by the other.
The family law attorney team at the Law Office of William B. Bennett are certified divorce mediators. If you need help during the mediation process, please call our office at (727) 821-8000.
Creating A Parenting Plan
A court must approve a parenting plan during the divorce procedures or it will enter its own parenting plan when small children are involved. The are many factors that the Florida Courts will take into account when reviewing a parenting plan. The law requires that a judgement is handed that allows for children to have contact with both parents that is in the best interest of the children.
A parenting plan can be agreed upon during the mediation process. Once agreed upon, the plan is then submitted to the judge for approval. Each parenting plan must include the following elements:
- An explanation for how each party will be involved with raising their children
- A schedule that outlines shared time with the children
- Details for how each parent will communicate with their children
- A decision for who will be responsible for healthcare, schooling and other activities.
If you have children under the age of 18, Florida Law also requires each parent to attend a parenting class before paperwork can officially be filed for dissolution of marriage. The clerk of the court will provide information with the details of when and where these classes are held in your area.
If there are still items in your case that could not be agreed upon, a trial or final hearing will be scheduled on your behalf. In most cases, this trial is held in front of a judge only and not a jury.
At your final hearing the judge will be available to hear from both sides in the divorce procedures. Each party will be allowed to submit evidence and include testimony under oath. Witnesses can be cross examined as well. Your divorce attorney will work with you to determine what witnesses, if any, should attend the final hearing.
Dressing neatly, arriving early and referring to the judge as “ma’am”, “sir” or “your honor” will go a long way in determining the outcome of your case. At this hearing the judge will make a final decision on the aspects of the case that were not agreed upon and will approve the parenting plan before filing a final motion for dissolution of marriage.
Get Help With Divorce Procedures Today
Divorce procedures in the State of Florida can be long and stressful. Hiring the right divorce lawyer can help expedite the process. Call the Law Offices of William B. Bennett, P.A. at (727) 821-8000 today for a free consultation or contact us on our website to schedule an appointment.