How does an uncontested divorce work in Florida?
If you’ve read our discussion about divorce in Florida, also called dissolution of marriage, you know that the contested divorce process can be both complicated and time-consuming. And since most divorce lawyers charge by the hour, the longer a case takes to resolve, the more expensive it’s likely to be.
But what if there was a way for you and your spouse to get divorced quickly and for a relatively small fraction of what it might otherwise cost to dissolve your marriage in Florida? Good news – there is. It’s called an uncontested divorce.
Put simply, an uncontested divorce is one where both spouses agree on all of the major issues between them, including those unique to their relationship.
Here’s how it works.
First, either you or your spouse has to be a Florida resident for at least six months before filing for divorce.
Second, your marriage must be irretrievably broken, meaning that it cannot be repaired.
As we explained in our divorce discussion, every Florida divorce – including an uncontested divorce – starts with the Petitioner filing a petition for dissolution of marriage with the clerk of court in the appropriate county.
The other spouse, known as the Respondent, will sometimes waive formal service of process in an uncontested divorce case so that there is no need for a professional process server to formally serve him or her at home.
Although the Respondent in an uncontested divorce case is still required to file an answer to the petition within twenty days, this is often little more than a formality where the Respondent simply admits or agrees to everything in the petition.
At this stage, most parties to an uncontested divorce case enter into a marital settlement agreement, which is essentially a binding contract that reduces to writing any agreements between the parties with regard to the major issues like alimony, child custody, child support, and division of property. Once both spouses sign the marital settlement agreement, it is filed with the clerk of court so that it can be incorporated into the divorce decree or final judgment of dissolution of marriage.
Overall, there are several obvious advantages to an uncontested divorce. It is generally less stressful, much less expensive, and doesn’t take nearly as long to resolve as a contested divorce would. In many cases, Pembroke Pines divorce attorney Andrew Foster can have your uncontested divorce finalized in less than three weeks.
So, why do I need a lawyer for an uncontested divorce?
Some spouses do choose to represent themselves in an uncontested divorce case. While that is certainly their right, we do not recommend it.
Even if you and your spouse agree on everything, it is important that all of your paperwork, including the marital settlement agreement and final judgment of dissolution of marriage, be drafted and worded properly. Florida divorce law can be complex and there are many rules that must be obeyed to the letter. A simple mistake can invalidate your agreement and it can cost you thousands of dollars to correct a problem the second time around.
Also, there is a huge difference between knowing where you want to go and knowing how to get there safely. You and your spouse may have reached an agreement that works for you. But it often takes an experienced divorce attorney to word that agreement in a way that not only achieves your goals legally, but also makes your agreement enforceable later on if your spouse decides not to follow through on his or her end of the deal.
There is, of course, another reason to hire an attorney in an uncontested divorce case. The agreement you made with your spouse simply may not be as good for you as you first thought. An experienced divorce lawyer can review your marital settlement agreement for hidden traps and pitfalls. In most cases, we can point out potential problems that never occurred to you before. And we can help you solve those problems now so that you don’t get stuck with a bad outcome later.
Divorce can be difficult. You and your spouse should be commended if you have been able to find common ground and agreement on these complex issues. But it is just as important to ensure that you are protected and that your agreement holds up in a court of law. Let us help. Contact Pembroke Pines uncontested divorce attorney Andrew Foster to schedule your initial consultation today.
The Law Offices of S. Andrew Foster represents clients throughout South Florida including Aventura, Cooper City, Coral Springs, Davie, Doral, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hialeah, Hollywood, Kendall, Miami, Miami Lakes, Miramar, North Miami, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Sunrise, Tamarac, and Weston.