The marriage has not worked out and it’s time to move on – Divorce. What should you expect? The list of questions rolling through your head will be fast and furious to say the least. Though a clean start is best for you, you need to make sure that the divorce is handled properly, whether you have property, debt, spousal support or child related issues that need resolution. The legal work is technical, the extent of which depends on the issues: more issues, more work.
An uncontested divorce without property or children, requires some “nuts and bolts’ information about you and your spouse. We can prepare and get those documents to you for execution the day we are retained and get you divorced about 30 days after filing; no fuss, no muss – divorced. An uncontested divorce case with property and no children requires us to discuss how you and your spouse intend to divide your property. Once we have that information, documents are prepared and sent to you a day or two later. You will be divorced about 30 days after filing. Remember, no court hearing is required in uncontested cases without children; stay home and save time and money. We can also restore a wife’s maiden, former or other name without requiring court hearing.
When there are children of the marriage, there are two issues that must be addressed – parenting plan and child support. The court is not concerned with you, your spouse or your property. However, when there is a child involved, every judge is concerned about the best interests of your children and will make sure that I, as your lawyer, have addressed the necessary issues in accordance with Florida law.
The Florida parenting plan is a twelve-page form (two of them are for signatures) that you and your spouse will fill out. When the parenting plan concept was introduced way back when, it was met with resistance by parties and lawyers alike – changes to the old way of doing things usually does. However, it really is a good idea and it works, for a couple of reasons. First, it is a comprehensive question and answer/fill in the blanks form that discusses pretty much all aspects of the child’s life; most importantly, when will each parent have the children. You can be as specific or vague as you’d like depending on you and your spouse’s situation. The parenting plan discusses enrollment in and payment for extracurricular activities, traveling, contact, school registration, etc. A good parenting plan will keep you out of court. Here’s why: before parenting plans, visitation agreements were all over the place; some marital settlement agreements would simply state that the parties would agree to agree as time went by; nothing specific, just a “vague understanding.” Well, when the “vague understanding” went south for whatever reason (usually because the divorce “honeymoon” period was over), back to court one party went seeking specificity of the nonfunctioning “vague understanding” visitation schedule. Too much unnecessary litigation caused a major change to the Florida family law system and the parenting plan was born. The terms of your agreement are there in black and white for all to see; most importantly, the judge assigned to your case. Sometimes court is necessary but a good parenting plan cuts down on potential controversies.
Child Support must be calculated in every case with children; no exceptions. The amount of child supports depends on the following factors: income of the parents, certain child related expenses and the number of nights per year that each parent has the children, as set forth in your parenting plan form. Once we have both affidavits and parenting plan form, we prepare all required documents to file with the court including the Florida child support guidelines worksheet. Child support amounts, terms of payment, arrearage amounts, if any, will be set forth in the marital settlement agreement.
Final hearings are usually set in the morning during a process known as motion calendar; a gathering of lawyers and clients wanting 5 minutes of a judge’s time. Get to court early to get in and out quickly. Here’s what to expect at the final hearing: the clerk or judge will administer the oath to tell the truth and the lawyer or judge will ask a series of routine questions: name, rank and serial number type of stuff. You will be asked whether you entered your agreement voluntarily, exchanged financial affidavits with spouse and want to be divorced. If a wife wants her maiden, former or other name restored, she must be at the final hearing. If there are children, you will be asked whether you entered a parenting plan, whether child support has been calculated and the guidelines followed and whether you took the required Florida parenting class. The entire process takes 3 minutes and the judge will usually execute the final judgment on the spot and give you a copy on your way out. If a wife has restored her maiden name, the clerk will take her to the clerk’s office to get certified copies.
What to expect in a contested divorce case? Here’s the thing: the issues are the same in every divorce case, contested or not. In an efficient contested divorce case with an efficient Florida divorce lawyer such as Steven Bowden, you should expect the process to move as quickly as the system allows. The goal should always be to get from A to B as quickly, efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Get your work done before its due. Get to mediation as soon as possible. Most cases settle but, if not, you can’t get to trial unless and until mediation fails. Assuming case settles at mediation, agreements will be drafted, signed, filed and final hearing set soon thereafter. No settlement? Trial – not an event the most adversarial parties should attend. Sometimes its 110% necessary, but most times not. Trial discussion best left for another day.