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Court Process

Once the petition has been filed, the Clerk will issue a summons directing either a Sheriff or process server to hand deliver the petition to your spouse. Your spouse will have 20 days to respond or file a petition of his/her own.

Case Management Conference 

At the moment you file for divorce, the clerk will schedule a case management conference to be held in front of a family law judge approximately 90 days after the date you filed. The court will lay out certain tasks that need to be completed before the conference date including: the exchange of financial affidavits and mandatory disclosure documents, filing of child support guidelines, a parenting plan, and attendance and completion of a parenting course.

Discovery Phase and Mandatory Disclosure

After the petition and counter petition have been filed, the divorce will enter the discovery phase. During discovery, you and your spouse must participate in mandatory disclosure, which involves the exchange of key financial information. The goal is to “put all your cards on the table” so there are no secrets going forward. Any attempt to “hide” assets can have serious penalties.

Mandatory disclosure is a critical step in the divorce process because it serves as a blueprint for how marital assets and property will be divided and how alimony and child support would be calculated (if applicable).

lawyer in Tampa for divorce representationExamples of financial documents you may be asked to provide include but are not limited to:

  • income tax statements
  • bank account statements
  • pay stubs
  • titles and deeds
  • credit card statements
  • insurance policies
  • retirement accounts
  • car loan documents

You and your spouse will each need to file a Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit with the court and exchange copies with one another. The affidavit is a comprehensive document that lists of all your current assets, debts, and monthly expenditures.

In addition to mandatory disclosure and financial affidavits, you and your spouse may send one another a list of questions called interrogatories which must be answered under oath in a sworn deposition. These questions can be about your spouse’s finances, assets, pensions or other related financial issues.

Property Division in Tampa Divorce

One of the most contentious parts of a divorce is dividing marital property. Marital property refers to all the assets and debts that were jointly accumulated during the marriage. Florida Mandatory Disclosure guidelines requires you and your spouse to provide one another with a comprehensive listing of all your assets. These may include the following:

  • Homes or rental properties
  • Vehicles
  • Household furniture and furnishings
  • Banking and investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts and pension plans

In Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida, marital property is divided based on the law of equal distribution. Equal doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split but rather a division based on what is fair in the eyes of the court.

During a divorce proceeding, you and your spouse will have the opportunity to negotiate and draft your own property division agreement. If you can’t reach an agreement a judge will divide the property for you.

At the firm of Tampa Family & Divorce Lawyer Mindi Lasley we can help make sure all of your assets and debts are listed and assigned an appropriate appraisal value.

If your case goes to court, the judge will weigh the following factors in determining how the property is divided

  • Length of marriage
  • Income and earning capacity of both spouses
  • Health of both spouses
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage

Requesting Temporary Orders

A contested divorce can take several months to become finalized, but sometimes that’s too long to wait to get certain issues resolved. There may be instances in which you need the court to provide immediate support or relief while your case is pending.

At the firm of Tampa Family & Divorce Lawyer Mindi Lasley, we can file a motion for temporary orders to be put in place throughout the duration of your divorce. These may include orders for:

  • Temporary alimony
  • Temporary child custody
  • Temporary child support
  • Establishing who lives in the primary residence
  • Temporary restraining order
  • Temporary order to prohibit the selling of assets;

Temporary orders can be requested at the initial filing of the divorce petition or at any time during divorce proceedings. However the court will most likely require you to attend mediation prior to scheduling hearings for temporary orders.

Mediation and Settlement Negotiation

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method meant to help you avoid a bitter court battle. In mediation, you and your spouse will work with a certified mediator to resolve your remaining disputes. This process is confidential and meant to provide a “safe space” where you can hammer out your differences and craft your own agreements on how you want to divide your property or parent your child(ren).

The mediator does not render decisions like a judge but is merely there to encourage cooperation, brainstorm ideas, and ultimately broker a settlement agreement. Divorce attorney Mindi Lasley will help you prepare for mediation, so that you know what to expect and are prepared to protect your interests.

If a settlement is reached, the agreement is put in writing and a hearing is scheduled to present it to the judge for approval.

Tampa courts for divorce

Trial

In the vast majority of cases, mediation is successful and litigation is avoided.However, if you and your spouse cannot arrive at a settlement, then your case will proceed to a trial. Divorce trials in Florida are bench trials which means there is no jury, rather a judge will hear your case. A trial can be for your entire case or centered around the areas where there is disagreement. A divorce trial in Florida, takes about one year from start to finish.