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Key Takeaways:

  • In an uncontested divorce, the parties have come to an agreement about the major issues in the divorce (such as division of assets, custody, child support, and alimony). In a contested divorce, the parties are unable to come to that sort of agreement, and are seeking a ruling from the Court.
  • Uncontested divorces tend to be much quicker, easier, and less expensive, and give divorcing couples a much better chance of retaining their assets.
  • There are several ways to pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida. You can pursue a self-help divorce (which will not require you to hire an attorney). You can also get a “simplified divorce”, in which lawyers help a divorcing couple draft a settlement agreement that works for both parties.
  • A Florida family law attorney can help a divorcing couple come to an agreement and seek an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where both parties have agreed to dissolve a marriage, and have come to an agreement about the division of assets amicably (or as amicably as possible), as well as other issues in the divorce. A contested divorce happens when the parties have not reached that sort of agreement and are seeking adjudication by the Court.

Whether or not a divorce becomes contested largely depends on context and cost-benefit analysis. Sometimes a divorce case can be uncontested even if there are dramatic or contentious circumstances that caused the couple to end their marriage.

For example, I recently dealt with a case in which a couple was getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. The reason they were getting divorced is because the wife found out that the husband had a secret second family. Once she found out, she was obviously unwilling to put up with that, and the marriage was over. However, she decided that she didn’t want to fight over the divorce, because she knew that taking a divorce to Court can be time-consuming and expensive.

Instead, the soon-to-be-ex-spouses charged me with the task of dividing up their assets as equally as possible. I presented them with the division plan, and they both came to an agreement as to certain revisions and changes to that plan.

Ultimately, we were able to execute a settlement agreement this way, and my clients were able to get a divorce and move on with their lives much faster. Their divorce process was much easier and cheaper than it would have been if they had gone to Court.

A contested divorce, on the other hand, is the typical sort of adversarial divorce that you tend to hear about in popular culture. It is the sort of divorce that drags on in Court, with insurmountable legal fees and bitter fighting.

Contested divorces that involve children often pit the parties against each other in arguments about custody and visitation (i.e., who gets what holiday?) and important decisions in the lives of the children (i.e., which doctor will the children see?) They tend to involve conflicts around who is going to pay for child support and alimony, and how much. They can also involve contention around property division, in which both parties might want the same shared assets (i.e., a house, car, and/or bank accounts).

Basically, the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce is that the parties in an uncontested divorce have reached an agreement prior to the divorce, whereas in a contested divorce, no such agreement has been reached.

What are the Most Significant Benefits of Having an Uncontested Divorce in Florida?

There are many benefits of pursuing an uncontested divorce in Florida. Some of the main benefits are that you stand a much better chance of preserving your assets, your time, your money, and your sanity.

Even in the best of circumstances, getting a divorce can be a very emotionally taxing process. When you throw in the many complications of pursuing a contested divorce, things can become far more taxing. This includes all of the complications of the Court system, which is not the most expedient platform for the resolution of these sorts of issues. It also includes the high costs of legal fees and representation.

For many, though, the main advantage of an uncontested divorce is saving time and saving money. Time is probably the most precious asset that we have as human beings, and it is unfortunately a finite asset. Successfully pursuing an uncontested divorce saves you a huge amount of time, in addition to the emotional stress and hardship that comes with contested divorces. It also saves you all of the money you would have to pay in legal fees, since your attorneys’ time is also a finite resource.

Of course, pursuing an uncontested divorce is not always possible. It takes the willingness and agreement of both parties to refrain from fighting and contesting the divorce. However, I believe that if a given divorcing couple can successfully pursue an uncontested divorce, both parties will benefit in many ways, including saving time, saving money, and saving themselves the emotional toll of a legal fight. It will also get the case finalized and the divorce completed much quicker, which will allow all parties to begin their new lives sooner rather than later.

There is an analogy I often use to explain the benefits of a no-contest divorce to my clients:

Let’s say you have a pie that is composed of $400, representing the assets and properties that a divorcing couple needs to divide into slices.

If the divorcing couple can come to an equal agreement, each of them will get to keep a $195 slice, and the attorney drafting the agreement will take a fee of around $10. That is an uncontested divorce.

If the divorcing couple can’t come to an agreement, then the pie will usually wind up being split four ways: each party’s attorney will take an $100 slice, and the couple will have to fight it out over how much of the remaining $200 will be in their respective slices. That is a contested divorce.

So, the question then becomes whether both parties want to give their hard-earned money and assets away to lawyers because they want to hurt each other, or whether they want to keep as much of that money for themselves as possible (while allowing their soon-to-be-ex-partner to do the same).

I ask my clients, “Do you want to give your hard-earned money away to lawyers?” As a lawyer, I will gladly take the money that comes with a contested divorce case if it is being offered to me willingly. However, I will advise my clients against taking that route if it is at all possible to avoid it, because I do not believe it is in their best interest.

In a Monroe County Uncontested Divorce, Do Both Parties Have to Agree on All Matters, Including Custody, Support, Maintenance, and Division of Assets?

The level of agreement necessary in a Monroe County uncontested divorce depends on the circumstances.

Generally, in order for a divorce to be truly uncontested in Monroe County, all matters have to be agreed upon by all parties, and then sanctioned by the Court.

What is the Process for an Uncontested Divorce in Florida? Will We Still Have to go to Court at Any Point?

To begin with, when pursuing an uncontested divorce in Florida, only the Petitioner (the person who initially filed for divorce) will be required to go to Court. The Defendant (the other party) will not be required to go to Court in the average uncontested Florida divorce. One major exception to this rule is if the parties are utilizing the “self-help” method and are not represented by attorneys. In that case, both parties will need to appear in Family Court in order to finalize the divorce.

In terms of process, there are many ways to pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida, each of which has its own standard process.

One of the ways to pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida is what’s called the “Self-Help” method. It does not require a lawyer, and can be done by the parties themselves.

Pursuing a self-help uncontested divorce in Florida involves the following steps:

  • Going to the Courthouse. One or both parties go to the Family Courthouse and ask a clerk for guidance on the self-help process.
  • Filling out Forms. The clerk gives the party or parties the relevant forms for a self-help uncontested divorce, which they will then fill out.
  • Drafting a Settlement Agreement. The parties draft a Settlement Agreement. This can be done by the parties without a lawyer, by following a template that is provided by Family Court. The Settlement Agreement dictates exactly how your assets and property will be divided, among other things.
  • Filing with Family Court. When all drafts and documents are filled out and finalized, the parties come back to Family Court and file the entire package.
  • Scheduling a Final Hearing. Once the documents are filed, there is usually a processing period of around 30 to 45 days. At some point within that time frame, the Court will schedule you for a Final Hearing, and notify you of the date.
  • Final Hearing. On the date of the Final Hearing, both parties come to Family Court and go to the courtroom of their assigned Judge. The Judge calls up the case and asks both parties a series of questions. You must respond honestly to these questions. Once the Judge is satisfied that they have heard everything they need to hear, they will either grand or deny an Order for Dissolution (which finalizes the divorce). Florida is a no-fault state, which means that you don’t need a reason to get divorced. It is therefore highly unlikely, if not impossible, for the Judge to refuse to grant a divorce under any circumstances.

Another way to pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida is referred to as a “simplified divorce”.

The standard steps to a simplified divorce in Florida are as follows:

  • Settlement Agreement Negotiation. Usually, lawyers are involved in simplified divorces. Sometimes each party has their own attorney, but often there is one attorney helping both sides. Before any paperwork is filed, the attorney will help the parties work out the details of the marital Settlement Agreement. This sometimes involves negotiation on matters like the division of assets as well as dividing responsibilities and—if relevant—child custody, child support, and alimony.
  • Filing the Settlement Agreement and Paperwork. Once the Settlement Agreement and all relevant paperwork is finalized and signed, the attorney will file everything with the Family Court. This will usually include Answered Acceptance Waivers, which are signed by the defendant to signify that there is no need to serve them with documents through a process server, because the parties are working together.
  • Scheduling a Final Hearing. Once the documents are filed, the Court will schedule you for a Final Hearing within 30 days, and notify you of the date of the hearing.
  • Final Hearing. On the date of the Final Hearing, the petitioner appears in Family Court with the attorney. The defendant is not required to appear for this stage of the process. The lawyer will present the case to the Judge assigned to the case, explaining that the parties have decided to dissolve their marriage and have come to an agreement about the details of that dissolution. They will then request that the Judge approve the marital Settlement Agreement decided on by the parties. During this part of the process, if either parties changed their name as part of the marriage, they are given the opportunity to either retain their marital names or go back to their previous names.

When the Judge grants the Final Order for Dissolution, the attorney can go about the process of dividing the marital assets and finalizing the divorce.

For more information on Family Law in Florida, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling
(305) 363-6066 today.

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