There are two kinds of divorces – contested and uncontested. A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot reach agreement about the terms of the divorce, such as division of assets, allocation of debts, alimony, child support, or child custody. In this situation, the parties ask a court to resolve some or all of the issues. Often couples will begin the process of a contested divorce and then, at some point before trial, reach agreement between them. Once an agreement is reached, the case is “settled” and will proceed to final Judgment as an “uncontested” divorce. Reaching a settlement is always preferable to having the court determine your fate. The terms of the settlement will be written and submitted to the court for the Judge’s review and if approved, it will become a part of the final Divorce Judgment.
Out Of Court Settlements
Most judges and lawyers prefer to “settle out of court” in an uncontested fashion. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on your own, an experienced divorce attorney or experienced mediator, can assist to help you reach an amicable settlement. It is not recommended that either spouse attempt to represent him or herself in a contested divorce, without the oversight and support of a qualified professional, where the complexities of the issues are too significant for the untrained, average person, to address effectively. The financial and emotional repercussions of acting as your own lawyer in a contested divorce case can be devastating.
SETTLEMENT THROUGH MEDIATION BEFORE DIVORCE ACTION STARTS
Pre-suit” Mediation is sometimes used by clients, before starting the Divorce Action, when they desire to work together with a neutral, unbiased experienced Divorce Mediator, to seek solutions, reach a common ground, to settle their disputes. Even if their communication is difficult, a trained and skilled Mediator can effectively work with divorcing couples, to successful reach settlements. A successful Mediation will result in a document called the Marital Settlement Agreement which contains the full settlement of all relevant issues and be filed with the court as an UNCONTESTED Dissolution of Marriage action.
Pre-Suit Mediation occurs when a couple retains and works directly with a Mediator before the commencement of a court proceeding for a divorce (“dissolution of marriage”), and usually before the Wife and/or Husband retain attorneys to start a court proceeding. In Mediation the goal is to reach an amicable settlement of all disputed issues that arise in the divorce – including issues relating to parental decision making, child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), division of assets, equitable distribution of property and allocation of debt – arriving at an agreement that is memorialized in a written ‘Marital Settlement Agreement’ by the Mediator. The final, signed Agreement can then be filed with the court in an Uncontested Divorce proceeding by the parties. The retention of an attorney by the Husband or by the Wife is not required to take part in Divorce Mediation. A party to the Mediation may desire to consult with their own attorney during the process, or have an attorney review the written Marital Settlement Agreement before finalizing.
FILING FOR DIVORCE IN FLORIDA
Every divorce, contested or uncontested, begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the Circuit Court of the county where the spouse lives. The other spouse must receive notice of the Petition and have the opportunity to respond by the filing of a Reply.