One of many questions we get from our clients is “How long does the divorce process take?” Our answer usually is “It depends.” Several important factors will determine the length of a divorce proceeding. If there are no obstacles, a divorce can range anywhere from three month to a year, from start to finish. However, it is not unusual to see a divorce hanging around in the court’s system for over two years or longer.
Each case is different, because each party has their unique set of issues to deal with. Generally, in a divorce proceeding, parties deal with property issues, alimony, pre- or post-nuptial agreements, marital business issues, parenting issues, and child support etc. Not each party will deal with all of these issues and some issues are more elaborated than others.
Regardless of the complexity of your case, each case will go through a series of well-defined steps that are governed by Florida Statute, the Family Law Rules of Procedures, and the rules of your local court. For example, Broward Count belongs to the 17th Judicial Circuit, whereas Miami-Dade County belongs to the 11th Judicial Circuit. While the Florida Statute and the Family Law Rules of Procedure is the same for both circuits, and all Florida circuits for that matter, each court has their individual procedures that may speed up or prolong the process. Other time determining factors might be the judge assigned to hear the case; but one of the most important factor is whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. A contested divorce will take longer to finalize compared to an uncontested or simplified dissolution procedure.
Very few people have a truly uncontested divorce, where both parties are in total agreement about their asset and liability division, spousal support, parenting arrangements and child support (if children,) etc. Most people quickly find themselves overwhelmed and in a very contentious situation, even if they initially assumed the divorce would be uncontested. This usually happens when the parties initially do not realize what is at stake. Usually it is best to go into the divorce process assuming there will be at least some disputed issues and therefore, the divorce becomes contested.
Based on our experience we came up with a general outline of how long different types of divorces can take. We hope that this can be a useful tool for your anticipated divorce proceeding and also be helpful when budgeting for living expenses during the proceedings.
FLORIDA UNCONTESTED DIVORCE
- Preparation of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and supporting documents – takes an average of 3 weeks.
- Filing the Petition and supporting documents –
- Service of Petition and Summons – Can be waived if a waiver of process is filed.
- Answer period – usually 20 days after process of service. Can be longer, if waiver of process is filed.
- Time to wait for a final hearing and ruling – takes 1 to 3 months.
- Total time necessary to finalize an uncontested divorce – usually takes 2 to 5 months.
FLORIDA CONTESTED DIVORCE
- Preparation of Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and supporting documents – takes about 4 weeks. The filing party must have extensive financial documentation, and the accuracy of these documents is crucial.
- Filing the divorce – Instant.
- Service of Petition and Summons – takes 1 to 3 weeks. If one party is avoiding service, it can extend the process considerably. Therefore, hiring a private process server might be faster than the local sheriff’s deputies to speed up the process.
- Answer period – 20 days, once the Summons and Petition have been served on the other party. However, there are many legal ways to delay answering the Petition.
- Financial Disclosure and Discovery – ideally and per the Family Law Rules to be completed within 45 days after service. Both parties will be required to exchange financial documents, including but not limited to financial affidavits, retirement account statements, tax returns, paycheck stubs, etc. However, depositions, interrogatories, and additional request for production of documents can lengthen the discovery period and ultimately the divorce process. It is not uncommon to be in discovery for six month to a year or longer.
- Parenting Course – If there are children common to both parties, a 4-hour parenting course required by the State of Florida must be taken by the parents.
- Mediation – Usually scheduled after 3 to 5 months from the date the Petition for Divorce is filed and discovery exchanged. Mediation is considered a voluntary process; however, most circuit courts in the State of Florida require mediation in all divorce cases. If the divorce settles at mediation, the time to finalize the process will be significantly shortened.
- Final hearing if cases is settled at Mediation – Typically takes place between 6 to 12 months from the time the case starts.
- Preparation for final hearing if not settled at mediation – It is difficult to put a time frame for actual trial preparation. It can be as little as two weeks, but typically one to 6 months is more realistic or even longer. =
- Final contested hearing – The trial itself can last between 2 hours to two 2 days or longer.
At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients in their divorce proceedings and provide valuable information for those looking to understand how to approach this particular situation in their own lives. If you think you are ready to file for divorce and have questions about the process and how it will affect you and your family, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.