Divorce cases never move as quickly as people getting divorced would like them to move. Here are the six reasons we often see as to why divorces take so long.
Divorce is something many people have to budget for.
If your divorce is going to have fighting and you have to be in court a lot to have a judge make decisions for you, that can be expensive. Retainers for divorce lawyers can start anywhere from $1,500 and go up drastically from there depending on whether you have children, how many assets you have, and the experience of your attorney. Filing paperwork and getting the divorce finalized are not particularly expensive. However, in Pinellas County, Florida, the filing fee for a divorce is $408.00, along with recording fees and costs for certified copies of the divorce judgment. Many people need to budget to have these funds and costs available. As long as you and your spouse are able to resolve situations on your own, costs can be manageable.
A not-friendly divorce can drag a case out.
A friendly (aka “uncontested”) divorce is a divorce that is filed where the spouses agree on everything. Many times in an uncontested divorce, the parties use lawyers to help them draft and word their marital settlement agreement. A collaborative divorce is where the spouses decide to go through the divorce process in a friendly manner. The spouses work with their attorneys, a financial person (usually a CPA), and a counselor to resolve all issues in a series of meetings before filing of the case. Both uncontested and collaborative divorces are friendly, keep costs down, and allow spouses to move forward quickly and amicably with their own, now separate lives.
However, the more issues that have to go before a judge for a decision, the more expensive the divorce becomes. If your divorce is going to have fighting and you have to be in court a lot to have a judge make decisions for you, that can take time. The more often you have to go before a judge, you will have many schedules and calendars to coordinate. If each spouse has an attorney, there are now 5 people (including the judge) whose calendars all need to sync up based on availability, holidays, etc. before you can get before the judge.
A spouse may want to make an issue out of something that is not really an issue for your divorce case.
Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Courts view divorce as the dissolution of an economic unit, and in many states, bad conduct during the marriage, such as cheating, is not used to calculate the equitable distribution of your assets and debts. In Florida, judges may consider adultery when determining the amount of alimony, but judges are not required to consider adultery. Some spouses may be tempted to use adultery as proof of bad behavior from the other spouse, but most lawyers advise against it because in the end it may not do much good. Additionally, proof that one spouse lied on something may not change the overall outcome of the case. If one spouse is determined to show the judge that their ex lied, this will draw out the case. This is often discussed as one spouse wanting to have their “day in court”. Getting a full day in court or the opportunity to share this information with the judge is not easy to come by. Again, syncing calendars between everyone involved becomes the biggest challenge. The more time you need for your case, the more difficult it will be to find the time and often will be scheduled much farther out (later) than a shorter hearing.
But if I get half of everything in equitable distribution, what is the delay?
Equitable Distribution is the term that the Court uses to split up your assets and your liabilities. While there is this idea that everything should be split 50/50, that is not always the case. Many factors play into exactly how everything gets split up. The financial situation of each spouse will play a factor. The careers and work history of each spouse will also play a factor. On what date will we value the assets? Did one spouse improperly take money? Is one spouse going to keep the marital home? Who will be the primary caretaker for the children? Did either spouse put their career on hold for the sake of the other spouse? Did one spouse waste marital assets or funds? You should consider meeting with a lawyer to understand how your situation and the factors may affect what you receive in the divorce.
My spouse will not respond to paperwork.
Your spouse does not need to participate in order for you to be divorced. If your spouse does not respond to the initial divorce paperwork, the Clerk of Court or the Judge can enter a “default”. A default is a paper filed in your case that says your spouse is not participating. Once a default is entered, you can continue to move forward with the case. If your spouse does not respond to later paperwork in the case, you should consider setting a Case Management Conference or Status Conference with the Court so that you can address your spouse’s failure to participate with the Judge. The Judge can either set a requirement for your spouse to participate or schedule an additional hearing to allow you to move forward without their participation. Either way, your spouse’s failure to respond should not affect your case.
I am handling my own case.
This is usually the reason that cases take so long. As the party who filed the divorce, you are the party responsible moving the case forward. That is difficult to do when you do not fully understand how the legal system works. In Pinellas County, we have legal self-help centers and packets that the clerk provides that discuss the process that family law case need to follow. There are also checklists and forms that can help someone who is representing themselves to get through the case. Many other Florida counties have similar self help-centers in their clerk’s offices or legal aid societies that provide similar forms, checklists, or procedures to help you understand how to move your case along.
Meeting with an experienced family law attorney can ease your fears and ensure your paperwork and the procedure is handled by a professional who knows what they are doing. There is no substitute for the advice an experienced family law attorney can provide. Most parties in family law cases can risk their cases taking a very long time, or worse getting dismissed if your case does not progress in a timely manner. You may find a great value in the fees you pay for an attorney to handle your paperwork correctly and counsel you about the legal process. Contact Feher Law to schedule your family law consultation at 727-359-0367 or Kfeher@FeherLaw.com.