Below is an explanation of divorce options in Florida.  In reading this explanation, you will realize the benefits of using a mediator as opposed to an expensive attorney. Southwest Florida Divorce and Family Mediation Services mediates throughout Florida and can assist you in your divorce.  You can contact us at (239) 631-6755 or michael@guidingpathmediation.com.

There are two types of divorces options under Florida law. They include the simplified dissolution of marriage or the regular dissolution of marriage.  Regular dissolutions of marriage can be either uncontested or connected.   Below is a summary of the two divorce options.

The Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.  As indicated by its name, the simplified dissolution is the easiest option.  The divorcing spouses do not need to hire attorneys to represent them.  However, the simplified dissolution can only be used under certain circumstances.  First, the spouses cannot have any minor children (i.e., children under the age of 18 years) and the wife cannot be pregnant.  Second, each spouse must complete the Financial Affidavit court form and the Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage court form.  These forms are available online at www.flcourts.org.  It is worth a trip to the courthouse to speak to the clerk of the court, as there will be other minor filing requirements.  Clerks are generally able to answer general questions regarding other filing requirements.  Last, both spouses are required to attend the divorce hearing.

The Uncontested Regular Dissolution of Marriage.  A regular dissolution of marriage can be uncontested or contested.  In uncontested divorce cases, the spouses are not in dispute and agree on shared parenting, equitable distribution of assets and liability, alimony and child support.  The spouses must enter into a marital settlement agreement and each must complete a financial affidavit.  Also, both spouses are required to attend the final divorce hearing.  There will be other ancillary documents that need to be completed and filed.  Typically, an uncontested divorce will require that each spouse retain an attorney who will charge hourly at fairly significant rates.  Alternatively, the couple can hire a family mediator at about half the attorney’s hourly rate to (i) develop a mutually acceptable settlement agreement and parenting agreement; (ii) calculate child support payments; and (iii) assist in completing all the necessary court documents, including the financial affidavit.

The Contested Regular Dissolution of Marriage.   In contested divorce cases, the spouses are not in agreement with various aspects of the divorce.  If your divorce is contested, each spouse would generally hire an attorney to provide legal advice and prepare for litigation if a settlement cannot be reached.  The cost of a contested divorce will be considerably greater than an uncontested divorce.  However, a family mediator can assist the disputing couple at considerably lower costs.  As in the uncontested divorce, both spouses are required to attend the final divorce hearing and complete the necessary court forms.


Florida Parenting Classes

If you are divorcing or have a child custody matter, you should consider going to a mediator since it is significantly less expensive than each spouse/parent hiring an attorney.  As a mediator, I can assist you in settling the matter and during the process I will (i) develop a settlement agreement and a parenting plan; (ii) perform child support calculations; and (iii) assist each spouse in completing all the necessary court forms.  You can contact me at michael@guidingpathmediation.com or (239) 631-6755.

Florida Parenting Classes

Like many states, Florida also mandates divorcing spouses with minor children to attend a four-hour parenting course:  Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course.  The course covers such topics as shared child-rearing, children’s emotions during divorce, unique family dynamics, financial obligations and child abuse and neglect.

The course must be completed prior to the court finalizing the divorce.  However, it is recommended that the parents complete the course early in the divorce process.  The course must be approved by the Florida Department of Children and Families.  There are numerous providers that offer the course.

The course generally costs between $20 and $40 and is offered in a classroom setting or online.  In-class courses are generally more expensive, but are often recommended, as they offer parents an opportunity to ask questions and listen to other parents’ unique experiences.

Online courses may be preferable for those spouses that cannot attend the full four-hour block of instruction at one time.  Online courses provide the flexibility of learning at an individual’s own pace that is manageable based on a parent’s daily schedule.  A parent can log off whenever necessary and the time will be automatically logged.

If you are interested in taking the course in a classroom setting, the following link provides class dates, locations, and registration information throughout Florida with a search by county feature: http://parentinganddivorce.educationprograms.com/Parents-Children-Divorce-Classes-Florida.php?SiteCounty

If you are interested in taking the course online, the following link is a Florida Department of Children and Families listing of approved providers of the course, along with contact information for registration:  http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childwelfare/docs/ParentEducationAndFamilyStabilization.pdf

If you do not know which judicial circuit your county is in, the following link provides a map of Florida illustrating which judicial circuit each county is in: http://www.floridamediators.org/CircuitMap.html