Tampa divorce attorneys family lawyers in Tampa, Riverview, Apollo Beach, Brandon, Carrollwood, Northdale, South Tampa, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County Florida
Se Habla Español Call NOW for a *FREE Consultation 813-672-1900 Or TEXT to (813) 543-8960 Financing Available * Free in most cases
  • Facebook
  • Search

Contested Divorce in Florida: Steps, Strategies, Resolution

Tampa Contested Divorce Attorneys in Florida

Divorce is never easy, but when couples cannot agree on the terms of their separation, the process becomes even more complicated. A contested divorce process can involve extensive negotiations, evidence collection, numerous court appearances, and a trial, which can lead to significant time, monetary costs, and emotional strain for both parties involved. 

The final step in this process is often a hearing in divorce court where the judge issues the final order to finalize the divorce. However, understanding the process and the intermediary steps can help individuals navigate this challenging time and work toward a fair resolution.

This article will provide an overview of the steps involved in a contested divorce case, from filing the petition to the final judgment. We will also take a deep dive into the discovery process, which is essential for gathering information and evidence to support each party’s position. This includes exploring mandatory disclosure requirements in Florida and other discovery tools such as requests for production, interrogatories, and depositions. 

If you need help navigating your divorce, contact the Tampa attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. online or call 813-672-1900 for a free consultation.  

We are committed to providing you with the best representation possible since 1997. Se habla Español.

Steps in a Contested Divorce Case

Tampa, Florida divorce lawyers

A contested divorce occurs when a couple decides to divorce and cannot agree on the terms of their separation. In Florida, this process involves several steps, each designed to help the parties resolve their differences and reach a fair settlement.

The final step in the contested divorce process is often a hearing in divorce court where the judge issues the final order, but many steps in the process must unfold to reach that point.

Filing the Divorce Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

The first step in a contested divorce case is filing the divorce petition, also known as the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In Florida, the main ground for divorce is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” (Fla. Stat. § 61.052), meaning that the couple’s differences are so substantial that no reasonable effort could reconcile them. (The only other ground for divorce in Florida is mental incapacity of one of the parties). 

To file for divorce in Florida, at least one spouse must have been a state resident for at least six months before filing (Fla. Stat. § 61.021).

Serving the Petition and Summons

Once the petition is filed, the petitioner must serve the other spouse (respondent) with a copy of the petition and summons. This can be done through personal service by a sheriff or process server, or by constructive service if the respondent’s location is unknown (Fla. Stat. § 61.043(1)). The respondent has 20 days to file an answer to the petition if served within Florida, (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.140(a)).

Temporary Orders and Child Custody

During the divorce process, the court may issue temporary orders to address immediate issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, and property distribution . 

These orders may establish parenting time schedules, determine temporary financial support, and restrict the dissipation of marital assets until the final judgment is entered. They may also impact the cost and complexity of the divorce proceedings, potentially requiring court intervention if the parties cannot agree on interim arrangements.

Discovery Process in Contested Divorce

The discovery process is a vital stage in a contested divorce case, allowing both parties to gather information and evidence relevant to the case. This process includes mandatory disclosures, which requires each party to provide a comprehensive set of financial documents to the other party without requiring a formal request (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.285). 

Other discovery tools include requests for production, interrogatories, depositions, and other tools that allow each party to gather the information necessary to support their positions in the divorce case.


In Florida, judges often require that the parties attempt mediation in most contested divorce cases before trial (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.740). 

Mediation is a process where a neutral third party (the mediator) helps the divorcing couple reach an agreement on contested issues. Mediation can occur in both contested and uncontested divorce cases. If successful, mediation can save the parties time, money, and emotional stress associated with a trial.


The case will proceed to trial if mediation fails to resolve all issues. The trial takes place in divorce court, where the judge will hear evidence and arguments from both parties. 

After hearing the evidence and arguments, the judge will rule on the contested issues, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support.

Final Judgment

The final step in a contested divorce case is the entry of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. If the parties reach an agreement during mediation or before trial, the settlement terms will be incorporated into the final judgment. The final judgment will also address any remaining contested issues based on the judge’s rulings at trial.

Discovery in Contested Divorce Cases

Contested divorce lawyers in Tampa Florida

Discovery is crucial in the contested divorce process, as it allows both parties to gather relevant information and evidence to support their positions. In Florida, several discovery tools help parties uncover the facts needed to reach a fair settlement or present their case effectively at trial.

Mandatory Disclosure

Mandatory disclosure is critical to the discovery process in Florida divorce cases. Its primary purpose is to ensure that both parties have early access to essential financial information in the case, promoting transparency and fairness throughout the proceedings. Mandatory disclosure requires each party to provide a comprehensive set of financial documents to the other party without requiring a formal request (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.285). This extensive documentation can significantly impact legal fees, especially in contested divorces where the complexity of the process often leads to increased costs.

The required documents for mandatory disclosure in Florida include (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.285(e)):

  1. Financial Affidavit (Form 12.902(b) or 12.902(c))
  2. All federal and state income tax returns, gift tax returns, and intangible personal property tax returns for the past three years
  3. IRS forms W-2, 1099, and K-1 for the past year
  4. Pay stubs or other evidence of earned income for the three months before service of the financial affidavit
  5. Loan applications and financial statements prepared within the last 12 months
  6. Deeds, promissory notes, and bills of sale
  7. Periodic statements from all checking accounts and for all money market funds, certificates of deposit, etc., for the last three months
  8. Most recent statement for any profit sharing, retirement, deferred compensation, or pension plan
  9. Declarations page, the last periodic statement, and the certificate for all life insurance policies insuring the party’s life or the life of the party’s spouse
  10. Current health insurance cards, all written health insurance policies, and all health insurance costs
  11. Corporate, partnership, and trust tax returns for the last three tax years in which the party has an ownership or interest greater than or equal to 30%
  12. All promissory notes for the last 12 months, all credit card and charge account statements, and other records showing the party’s indebtedness as of the date of the filing of this action and for the prior three months
  13. All written premarital and marital agreements entered into at any time between the parties to this marriage, whether before or during the marriage

The deadline for complying with mandatory disclosure is typically 45 days from the date of service of the petition or supplemental petition (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.285(b)(1)). Failure to comply with mandatory disclosure requirements can result in sanctions, including attorneys’ fees, costs, and contempt of court (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.285(f)).

Requests for Production

A request for production is a discovery tool that allows one party to ask the other to provide specific documents or tangible evidence related to the case (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.350). This can include financial records, emails, text messages, photographs, and other relevant materials. The responding party must either provide the requested documents, object to the request, or state that the documents are not in their possession, custody, or control within 30 days (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.350(b)).


Interrogatories are written questions sent from one party to another, seeking information relevant to the case (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.340). These questions can cover various topics, such as income, assets, liabilities, parenting arrangements, and marital misconduct. The responding party must answer the interrogatories under oath within 30 days (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.340(a)).


Depositions involve the oral questioning of a party or witness under oath, typically conducted by the opposing party’s attorney (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.310). The purpose of a deposition is to gather information and assess the deponent’s credibility. Depositions are conducted outside of court, with a court reporter present to record the testimony. The testimony during a deposition can be used as evidence at trial, particularly for impeachment purposes if the deponent’s trial testimony differs from their deposition testimony. Depositions are often used as evidence in divorce courts, especially in contested divorces where issues cannot be resolved during the settlement phase.

Other Discovery Tools

In addition to the tools mentioned above, there are other discovery methods available in Florida divorce cases:

  1. Subpoenas: Subpoenas can be used to compel the production of documents or the appearance of witnesses at a deposition or trial (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.410).
  2. Admissions of Fact: Parties can request that the other party admit or deny specific facts related to the case (Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.370). If admitted, these facts are considered established for the purpose of the case.
  3. Expert witness disclosures: If either party intends to use expert witness testimony, they must disclose the expert’s identity and provide a written report summarizing their opinions and the basis for those opinions (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.280(b)(5)).

The discovery process in contested divorce cases can be complex and time-consuming, but it is essential to ensure that both parties can access the information needed to make informed decisions and present their case effectively. Working closely with an experienced family law attorney can help navigate the discovery process and protect one’s rights throughout the divorce proceedings.

Financial Affidavit

Divorce lawyers in Tampa Florida

The Financial Affidavit is one of the most critical documents in the mandatory disclosure process. This document provides a comprehensive overview of each party’s financial situation, including income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. The financial affidavit is essential for determining financial matters in both contested and uncontested divorces. The importance of complete and accurate financial disclosure cannot be overstated, as it forms the basis for many decisions made during the divorce process, such as property division, alimony, and child support.

Components of a Financial Affidavit

The Financial Affidavit is divided into two main sections:

  1. Income and Expenses: This section requires each party to disclose their current income from all sources, including employment, investments, and any other regular sources of funds. It also requires a detailed breakdown of monthly expenses, such as housing, food, transportation, insurance, and other regular costs.
  2. Assets and Liabilities: In this section, each party must list all assets and liabilities, including real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, credit card balances, loans, and other debts. This information is crucial for determining the equitable distribution of marital assets and debts.

Consequences of Failing to Disclose Information: Advice from an Experienced Divorce Attorney

Failing to disclose or provide false information on a Financial Affidavit can have serious consequences.

If a party is found to have knowingly provided false information or hidden assets, they may face sanctions, such as being held in contempt of court, being ordered to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees, or even having their share of the marital assets reduced (Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.285(f)).

In extreme cases, criminal perjury charges may be filed. Consulting an experienced divorce attorney can help avoid these consequences by accurately disclosing all necessary information.

Our Tampa Divorce Attorneys Can Help You Through Your Divorce

At All Family Law Group, P.A., our divorce attorneys can help you navigate the divorce process every step of the way.

Call us now at 813-672-1900 or connect with us online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and to provide options available.  Se habla Español.

All Family Law Group, P.A.
The law firm of All Family Law Group, P.A. provides legal services to the Florida cities including Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, Riverview, Hyde Park, South Tampa, Ybor City, Northdale, Valrico, Gibsonton, Lithia, Mango, Palm River, Plant City, Seffner, Sun City Center, Wimauma, Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Temple Terrace, Carrollwood, Northdale, Westchase, Citrus Park, Town N Country, Thonotosassa, Lutz, Fish Hawk, New Tampa, St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor, MacDill Air Force Base and all of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco Counties. We will also represent DIVORCE clients in Polk, Hernando or Manatee Counties.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from All Family Law Group, P.A.

MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2014 - 2024 All Family Law Group, P.A. All rights reserved.
This law firm website SEO by Lynette Silon-Laguna and website management by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab