In Florida, filing for divorce can take 3 to 24 months. The specific timeline depends on whether it is contested or uncontested. For uncontested divorces, the average timeline is three months. For contested divorces, this timeline extends to 12 months or longer. Additionally, factors like the judge, county, and will of both parties can impact divorce speed.
Florida’s divorce rate is 13%, which is slightly higher than the national average. For many couples, divorce is inevitable and something they agree to. In this situation, they can file for an uncontested divorce. However, when one spouse does not agree with the divorce or the terms of the divorce, it is a contested divorce and can take significantly longer to finalize.
Regardless of the type of divorce you file, I can provide advice and guidance with the process. At Griffin Family Law, PLLC, I assist couples and individuals with family law issues, regardless of their situation.
When filing for divorce, you will likely have many questions. Some of the questions I answer here include the following:
- How long does it take to serve divorce papers after filing?
- How long does a judge take to sign a divorce decree in Florida?
- When does a Judge sign a Divorce decree?
- How long does a divorce case stay open in Florida?
Requirements to File for Divorce in Florida
When filing for divorce, you must meet all the requirements established by law.
To file a dissolution of marriage in Florida, one party must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months before the filing.
It is also necessary for one of the following facts to be true:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken
- One party is mentally incapacitated
Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Florida
Uncontested divorces (as described above) occur when both spouses agree on all the details of the separation. Some factors that must be agreed on to file an uncontested divorce include the following:
- Asset division
- Tax exemptions
- Division of liabilities
- Child support
- Parenting arrangements
With an uncontested divorce, there can be no arguing, unsolved issues, or competition. Both parties must agree to the terms of the divorce, sign all related documents, and work to fix any issues that may arise.
Filing an uncontested divorce typically has the shortest timeline.
While it is possible to file an uncontested divorce without the help of an attorney, it is not recommended. With an attorney, you can feel confident that the process will move along smoothly and be finalized as quickly as possible. This is mainly because your attorney can directly control the events’ schedule.
Filing for a Contested Divorce in Florida
In Florida, contested divorces are the most common ones filed. They are typically prepared and filed in court. After that, the papers are “served” to the other spouse. It is necessary to hire a private process server to deliver these documents to the other party.
In these filings, most of the issues related to the divorce filing are contested. The number of contested issues does not matter. Even in situations where there is just one disagreement, it is considered a contested divorce.
A misconception is if both parties want to be single but disagree on the financial aspect of things. Even small issues result in a divorce being contested.
Most contested cases initially achieve a “halfway point” during the divorce proceedings. This is achieved during mediation. Just because a Florida divorce begins contested does not mean it will end that way. This is why many situations are called “initially contested.”
How Long Does a Divorce Take if One Party Does Not Agree?
In situations where one party does not agree to the divorce, they can answer the petition in this manner. In this case, the court can do one of the following to address the situation:
- Order one or both parties to consult with a psychologist, marriage counselor, rabbi, priest, minister, or someone else qualified by the court and acceptable to handle the situation.
- Continue the divorce proceedings for a period that does not exceed three months and allow the parties to consider and work toward reconciliation.
- Take another action that is in the best interest of the parties and children involved.
The Timeline of a Florida Divorce Case
Contested divorce filings require more time than uncontested filings. You must collect and organize all financial statements and documents to ensure full disclosure to the other party. Accuracy is required since contested issues often hinge on your disclosures. It is also necessary that you understand the realities of a contested case, which is typically more competitive.
The requirements are more extensive, and unless the case starts as an uncontested filing, it is impossible to relax about the requirements. Also, you cannot take anything involved in the case for granted.
The Divorce Filing
In Florida, you can file for divorce almost instantly. There is no waiting period for this.
Serving the Petition and Summons
This period can take one to three weeks. It all depends on how willing or stubborn the other party is and if they cooperate with the process. Sometimes, a person will dodge this service. It means they try to hide from the process server hired to serve the papers to them. Sometimes, this can extend the divorce timeline by a month or more.
A private process is usually faster, more efficient, and more resourceful than the local sheriff’s deputies.
The Answer Period
Once the process server delivers documents to the other party, they have just 20 days to file an answer in Florida. Usually, this is a predictable time.
Sometimes, there are twists and turns in the situation. There are several legitimate ways to delay a case.
Discovery and Financial Disclosure
All contested divorces require both sides to send specified financial documents. Usually, the minimum documents include tax returns, paycheck stubs, retirement account statements, and bank statements. This period typically lasts for 90 days (on average).
While more specific timelines must be adhered to, the discovery and financial disclosure process will usually take three months. Remember, fully contested cases will go to trial and require more time.
Parenting Course for Divorces Involving Children
If children are involved in the divorce, Florida requires the parents to take a four-hour parenting course. Usually, this can be completed right before or after the case.
Mediation is when most contested cases are concluded. This process usually lasts four to five months from filing, and it is a semi-voluntary process.
Mediation is required in all Florida divorces, and most couples can settle their case in this process. If a divorce case settles during mediation, the amount of time it takes to finalize a divorce is reduced significantly. Mediation can be handled through the courthouse or a private mediator. Using a private mediator’s service can help reduce some of the time a divorce takes.
Most Florida divorce cases (70% to 90%) are settled during mediation.
The final hearing is the last stage of a divorce. If the case moves along the initially contested course, it will likely end with an uncontested final hearing. In this situation, most final hearings occur in four to six months.
Some variables can speed up or delay a divorce case, which includes the document’s accuracy, how the other party follows the proper procedure, and if the judge has an open or full calendar. In a contested divorce, the last stage is the final hearing; at this time, the divorce is typically granted.
Timeline for Most Contested Divorce Cases
These are the cases that most people hear about and the type of cases most people want to avoid. However, many Florida divorces will go to trial. The process in this situation is typically long, unpredictable, and delayed. These cases can take from nine months to three years, with some lasting over five years. However, this is an extreme situation and one that is rare.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney for Assistance
Divorce is rarely pleasant; however, the process will likely be faster and less stressful if you can file for an uncontested divorce. However, even in a contested divorce situation, you have options to help speed up the filing.
The best way to know your options is to consult a Neptune Beach family law attorney. At Griffin Family Law, PLLC, I can provide advice and guidance regarding your divorce and help you achieve the best possible outcome. Contact me today for a free consultation.