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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Florida: Which Option Is Best for You?

Contested divorces in Florida seldom make sense, and here is why.

Divorces are unlike a typical civil lawsuit. Unlike a breach of contract lawsuit, for example, there is no declared winner or loser in a contested divorce. In most cases, the judge will simply apply the same default rules at the conclusion of the trial that applied the first day of your case.

So, what makes filing a contested divorce civil lawsuit any different than an uncontested divorce? In a contested divorce, you likely will 1) wait two years to get to a final judgment, 2) spend a lot of money on attorneys’ fees to get there, and 3) endure a difficult trial where your marriage’s dirty laundry is on public display.

How does an uncontested divorce work?

An uncontested divorce is a completely transparent solution for the parties involved that typically takes less than one month to complete. Neither party has to go to court. The spouses work together to formulate a resolution that is acceptable to each of them. The spouses, rather than a judge, are in control of their own destinies.

In an uncontested divorce, the spouses both sign a conflict waiver so there is only one attorney whose job it is to facilitate a deal that is acceptable to the parties. The attorney works with both spouses to ensure agreement of all terms. The entire process is completely transparent, and both spouses review and approve every document before they are filed. Once approved, the attorney files all paperwork necessary to finalize the divorce. The significant advantages of an uncontested divorce are time, money and control.

What are the main legal issues in a divorce?

There are typically two major issues for a court to decide in a divorce – the sharing of minor children and financial division of assets and liabilities. Regarding financial division, Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that each party is typically entitled to 50% of the assets and 50% of the liabilities incurred during the course of marriage. It makes no difference if those assets or liabilities are only in one spouse’s name. If the asset or debt accrued during marriage, they are marital. Yes, that includes student loans, credit card debts, and retirement accounts. Additionally, if your premarital assets have been commingled with marital assets, the entire asset is likely now a marital asset.

As for the sharing of minor children, each parent is entitled to 50% of the overnights of the children, including holidays. Each parent is entitled to co-parent, meaning that important parental decisions are to be made jointly. With an uncontested divorce, the spouses are able to work on a schedule that works for both parents and the children. Since the process is amicable and quick, the resulting stress on the parents and children is greatly reduced.

How much is child support?

Each parent is required to pay child support under Florida statutory law, which is calculated by the court based upon the income of each party, the number of children, and the number of overnights with the children. Child support is a right of the child, so the parents are unable to waive this requirement. You can determine these calculations by searching “Florida child support calculator” online and inputting the applicable details.

What about legal separation?

Florida does not recognize separation. Both spouses are typically liable for the actions of the other spouse until such time that one party files for divorce. Therefore, be careful of the frivolous actions of one spouse.

Conclusion

Seldom will an attorney give you the advice to spend less money in litigation, but for most divorces in Florida, that is exactly the recommendation being made here. A qualified attorney that is experienced with uncontested divorces should be able to assist with creating an amicable resolution that will potentially save the spouses time, money and stress.

This article is for informational purposes. If you have any questions about the details in this article or need assistance with legal issues related to divorce, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Attorney Jim Ippoliti is an equity partner in the law firm Widerman Malek with offices in Melbourne and Celebration, Florida. Attorney Ippoliti offers free initial consultations to those who seek the benefit of an uncontested divorce. His direct email is jim@uslegalteam.com.

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