Divorce Process in Tampa, Florida
What to Expect in Your Tampa Divorce
At the law firm of All Family Law Group, our Tampa divorce lawyers will divide the divorce process into several steps. The steps are as follows:
Free initial consultation
- At your no-charge initial consultation one of our experienced divorce attorneys will meet with you one on one to determine the legal issues involved in your case and advise you of the options available to you based upon what has been discussed. The consultation is an initial review of the circumstances in your case and more specific advice will be given as the process proceeds.
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- If you initiate the divorce, we will file a divorce petition. Filing a petition for dissolution of marriage is the first step in the divorce process. Once filed, the petition will be served by personal service upon your spouse who then has 20 days to respond to us and the court. If the respondent does not respond, then you may obtain a Clerk’s default against him or her and go forward without his or her involvement. It is always possible to have your spouse sign an acceptance of service to receive the petition and therefore he or she will not have to be personally served. If your husband or wife’s residence is unknown, then you must complete a diligent search to attempt to find his or her residence so he or she can be served either by publication or by personal service, depending on the outcome of the diligent search.
Answer and Counter Petition
- If your spouse initiates the divorce, we will file an answer and counter petition within 20 days of the date you were served. The answer will include your response to the petition and the counter petition will include your requests for resolution. If you agree with what is in the petition, then it will not be necessary for a counter petition to be filed.
- Financial discovery occurs after the initial paperwork is filed. This is where the parties obtain and provide copies of financial information from and to each other as to their income, assets and debts.
Case Management Conference
- A mandatory case management conference is scheduled by the Court within 90 days of the date the petition for divorce is filed. The conference is held in front of a judge, and the parties are required to have filed certain pleadings including a Financial Affidavit, completion of financial disclosure and if minor children, completion of a parenting class and a child support guidelines worksheet. This is simply a case status conference and there is no testimony by the parties.
Child Custody and Visitation
- If minor children are involved then issues regarding visitation and custody must be resolved. Custody and visitation are now known simply as “time-sharing.” The terms primary and secondary custody have been eliminated by the legislature as of October 1, 2008.
Other Issues to Resolve
- Other issues to be resolved include child support, child care, health and dental insurance as well as uncovered medical and dental expenses. Other Court requirements are preparation of a parenting plan including a detailed daily, holiday and summer time-sharing schedule of the parents, a child support guidelines worksheet, and both parents attendance at a mandatory parenting class either in person or online.
Attendance at Mediation
- After the financial discovery is completed, if we cannot come to an agreement beforehand, we attend a mediation conference which is mandatory in Hillsborough County. The majority of cases settle at mediation. If so, an agreement is drafted and signed at the time of the conference. A settlement agreement between the parties and their attorneys may also be negotiated prior to mediation or drafted after mediation using information from the mediation and further negotiations. An uncontested final hearing will be held if an agreement is reached.
Uncontested Final Hearing
- If the parties can come to an agreement and sign a Marital Settlement Agreement or Mediation Agreement, then there will be an uncontested final hearing where the executed agreement, and the parenting plan if there are children, will be incorporated by reference into a final judgment. Only the petitioner will be required to attend it.
Temporary Relief Hearing
- If the parties do not succeed in reaching an agreement through mediation or negotiations between the parties and their attorneys, a temporary relief hearing may be held to address immediate issues, including issues relating to child custody, visitation (time-sharing), child support, alimony and attorney fees. Usually, only emergency situations will be heard by the court prior to mediation being conducted.
- If the parties cannot agree and the judge must decide the outcome, the first step is a pretrial conference. This is mandatory and the hearing is generally scheduled one month prior to the contested final hearing; however, it does depend on the judge’s calendar. The primary purpose of the pretrial conference is to determine what issues will be heard at the final hearing or trial.
Final Hearing or Trial
- A contested final hearing or trial is the final step in the Tampa divorce process. The issues are brought before the judge by testimony of the parties and evidence supporting each party’s position. We will be thoroughly prepared to represent you and your position and to skillfully present thoroughly researched evidence to support your case.
- After the final hearing, either the judge will prepare a Final Judgment or one of the attorneys will prepare it with the approval of the opposing party’s attorney. If there is disagreement as to the Final Judgment when it is signed by the judge, the party’s may request in writing a rehearing which generally must be within 10 days of the date the Final Judgment is signed by the judge. Or it generally must be appealed within 30 days of the date it is signed.
Comply with Final Judgment
- If there are no objections within the time periods above by the parties, then they are ordered to comply with the Final Judgment and may be in contempt of court if he or she does not.
Contact Tampa Divorce Attorneys & Family Law Lawyers to Discuss the Procedure in your Case
Begin the process now. If you have questions regarding any of the areas of law in which we practice, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. We are committed to providing to you with the best representation possible. Contact our firm online or call 813-672-1900 for a free initial consultation.