I’ve Been Served with Divorce Papers in Florida, Now What?
If you have been served with a petition for divorce in Orlando or anywhere else in Florida, you must act quickly to protect your rights. Whether you knew that a divorce was coming or it came out of the blue, you need to consult with an Orlando divorce attorney to understand what to expect next.
Schedule a consultation with our attorney at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., if you have been served with divorce papers and do not know what to do next.
What to do if I was served with a petition for divorce in Florida?
Once you are served with a divorce petition, you have two options:
- You can ignore the petition. However, in this case, your divorce could result in a default judgment in favor of your spouse.
- You can respond to the petition. Under Florida law, you have 20 days to respond to the divorce papers after the initial service of process.
It is critical to understand your legal rights when responding to the petition for divorce in Florida. A knowledgeable family lawyer will help you respond to the divorce papers and protect your interests.
Protect your legal rights
As mentioned earlier, you have 20 days to respond to your spouse’s petition for divorce. If you do not respond within 20 days, your divorce case may proceed towards a default divorce.
You should focus on protecting your legal rights after being served with divorce papers in Florida. A skilled attorney on your side can help you seek a contested or uncontested divorce and negotiate a fair divorce settlement in your case.
Gather documents and evidence
After filing an answer to your spouse’s petition for divorce, you should start gathering documents and pieces of evidence that may be relevant to your case.
You will need to collect a plethora of documents for your divorce case in Florida, including but not limited to:
- Tax returns
- Paycheck stubs
- Records of all assets and debts
- Business records
- Bank statements
Your divorce attorney will help you understand what documents you need to compile based on the facts of your particular case. Most couples must also file a Financial Affidavit, which reveals information about each party’s property, assets, income, and liabilities. Florida Court Rule 12.285 requires you to submit a Financial Affidavit within 45 days of being served with divorce papers.
When gathering all necessary documents for your divorce case, your lawyer will help you schedule mediation and the final hearing. Florida courts will refer parties to mediation before hearing their case under the following circumstances:
- The parties are filing for divorce;
- The parties want to establish a child custody or alimony agreement; or
- The parties are seeking a modification of an existing court order.
Mediation is not as time-consuming and expensive as traditional litigation, which is why you can benefit from trying mediation in your divorce case. Mediation is a meeting that takes place in an informal office setting. It is a confidential process guided by a neutral, third-party mediator.
It usually involves you and your divorce lawyer in your room and your spouse and their lawyer in the other room. The mediator will go back and forth between the rooms to facilitate negotiations and reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
Attend the final hearing
If the parties are not able to reach an agreement at mediation, they will attend the final hearing and present their evidence to the judge to decide their case.
If you have been served with divorce papers, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced and knowledgeable divorce lawyer to protect your rights and explain what to do next. Speak with our Orlando-based family lawyer Steve W. Marsee to talk about your case. Call 407-521-7171 today.