To file for divorce in Florida you typically must establish residency six months prior to the date you file a petition—the papers requesting a divorce¬—with the court. Florida no longer has “fault” grounds for divorce, and is often referred to as a “no fault” state. This means that neither party needs to establish that a bad act has occurred to get a divorce. It also means that proving bad acts, like adultery, abandonment, or domestic violence, generally do not entitle the innocent party to more money in the divorce. Instead, the court will consider if your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” which is similar to asking if any amount of counseling could put the relationship back together. If this is the case for you, then you want to understand the different divorce processes that exist in Florida.
A very large percentage of Central Florida divorces are resolved with a mediated divorce settlement, which is often titled “Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement”. Most courts, such as Orange County, Seminole County, and Osceola County, require that a divorce or other family law case go to mediation before the Judge resolves issues. The system is set up to encourage parties to resolve their own matters, as opposed to having someone who does not know the family resolve their intimate family issues. The Windle Family Law Firm prepares our clients for mediation thoroughly so that they will understand the process, and so that they will have given thought to the difficult decisions that will be presented at mediation. We have extensive experience using private mediators and mediators that are provided through the courthouses’ mediation services.
Divorce Processes in Florida
The attorneys at The Windle Family Law Firm recognize that each person’s divorce is as unique as his or her relationship. We have extensive experience resolving marital disputes through uncontested divorce processes, mediations, the collaborative law process, and contested proceedings (where the matter goes to trial and the Judge makes a determination). The selection of which one of these processes is right for you is an important decision that takes into consideration your needs and desires, as well as those of your children; the ability for you and your spouse to work together; the financial issues at stake; the history of abuse or domestic violence; and other important aspects of your family dynamic. We are available for consultations if you would like to discuss the specifics of your family’s difficulties.
An uncontested divorce usually refers to a situation where both parties are in agreement with how they want to resolve their divorce issues. It is all too common for people who are not represented by an attorney to attempt to navigate the uncontested divorce process and unknowingly make detrimental mistakes that leave them with very different results than what they intended to achieve. When The Windle Family Law Firm handles an uncontested divorce, our goal is to ensure that our client is fully informed about the decisions they are making, the consequences of those decisions, and other options that may be available. We then navigate our client through the complex procedural processes of the court system, draft their legal documents, and attend any necessary court appearances. It is important to remember that one attorney is not permitted to represent both you and your spouse, even when you are in agreement on all issues.
Unfortunately, some divorce issues are unable to be resolved by the agreement of the parties. In those cases the Judge is asked to make the final decision. Whether it is a hearing or a trial, the courtroom process is very different than what is seen on television. Divorce matters almost never have jurors; instead, the Judge makes the findings and decisions. If your case needs to go to the Judge for a resolution, it is important that you consider retaining an attorney with divorce and family law trial experience to help mitigate your expenses. The Windle Family Law Firm has divorce and other family law trial experience, and we are available to speak with you regarding your situation.
The Collaborative Law Process
The Collaborative Law Process is often referred to as a Collaborative Divorce, or simply Collaborative. This process is relatively new in Florida and is becoming increasingly common in Central Florida. Many families have seen the benefit of this unique process that uses goal-based negotiation, provides higher levels of family privacy, emphasizes the needs of children, and avoids stressful, slow and costly litigation.
The process requires each party to retain a collaborative attorney, who is commonly a member of CFL-CFL (The Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida) or IACP (International Academy of Collaborative Professionals). Mr. Windle is a member of both organizations. The attorneys then select a mental health professional to facilitate the process, and identify a financial professional to gather and explain financial issues relating to the marriage. The mental health professional and financial professional provide information on their expertise and remain neutral in the process.
Once the group is formed, the husband, wife, attorney, and professionals will enter into a participation agreement. This agreement provides that each party has a duty to provide transparency of important information, such as finances. It also indicates that the parties will not use the court to make decisions. Should the Court become necessary, it states that the attorneys and the professionals will step out of the case. Thus, the parties, the attorneys, and the professionals are all equally committed to resolving the issues as a group.
While the Collaborative Process is often called Collaborative Divorce, it can be used for other types of family law matters, like Collaborative Paternity, Collaborative Modification, Collaborative Relocation, and even Collaborative Annulment. The Windle Family Law Firm is experienced in the Collaborative Process and is available to discuss the process with you in more detail.