Orlando Uncontested Divorce Lawyer Near You
Divorce is often portrayed as a long and complicated legal matter with Orlando divorce lawyers on both sides fighting in court—there is yelling, people are crying. But divorce doesn’t have to be this way, and, in many cases, it’s not. When both spouses agree their marriage isn’t working any longer, and they know how they want to handle divorce issues, such as child custody, child support, and property division, there is the option for an uncontested divorce in Florida. At The Law Offices of Sean Smallwood, P.A., we provide legal advice and representation in Orlando uncontested divorce cases because even though your divorce may be uncontested, you still need to protect your rights and interests.
Florida’s Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
For some uncontested divorce cases, Florida law offers a process called a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.” With this process, a couple can generally obtain a divorce in about a month from the time the petition for divorce is filed, so long as there is total agreement on the terms of the divorce. In addition to both spouses agreeing to use the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage process, the couple cannot have any dependent children, the wife cannot be pregnant, and no alimony can be involved. Additionally, at least one of the spouses must have lived in Florida for six months prior to filing for divorce, and both spouses must agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
We have all heard the stories of the divorce that lasted for multiple years, costs thousands and thousands of dollars, and destroyed the lives of the parties in the case. But, is that the story of every divorce? The answer is no, in fact, many divorces are accomplished every day in a peaceful and agreeable manner known as an uncontested divorce.
The general definition among most family law attorneys for an uncontested divorce is basically a dissolution of marriage where both parties are in complete agreement on all relevant legal issues in the case. This means that there are no items at all that the parties are disagreeing on, the parties to the case can put their settlement agreement to a written format, at which point a divorce court judge may enter a final judgment of dissolution.
This is quite different from a traditional contested divorce where, at the beginning of the case the parties may disagree on several issues including custody and time-sharing of children, the division of assets, payment of debts, child support, alimony, and many other items.
An uncontested divorce is a viable and recommended option only when you and your spouse have found consensus on such issues as:
- Division of marital property and debt
- Child-related aspects of the divorce (custody, child support, parenting plans, and visitation)
If you opt for an uncontested divorce, all aspects of the dissolution of the marriage will be outlined in your marital settlement agreement.
Why Would It Be Preferable for My Divorce to Be Uncontested?
There are many reasons that an uncontested divorce is preferable over a contested divorce. These reasons include, but are not limited to cost of litigation, emotional trauma caused to the parties, emotional stress caused to children involved in the case, length of time of the case, damage to the party’s ability to get along in the future to co-parent the children after the case is over.
The first of these, the cost of litigation is probably the first of many reasons that most people can think of as to why the family divorce case should be resolved in a peaceful way rather than through conflict. Divorce lawyers charge fees to their clients based upon the time that that must be devoted to that client’s case in the amount of work that is necessary. The longer a case goes on and the more the parties fight the more money the lawyers must charge their clients. Therefore, the best way to not overpay for legal fees for a divorce is to settle the case quickly on an uncontested basis.
The second reason that uncontested divorce is preferred is to minimize emotional trauma caused to the parties. This is probably the part of the equation that catches most people by surprise through the divorce process. Many people when considering divorce do not realize the physical and emotional strain that the process of divorce has on people. It is extremely common for divorcing litigants to require ongoing therapy and in some cases, people can develop long-term anxiety and other emotional damage stemming from the divorce process.
The third reason that uncontested divorce should be sought is to minimize emotional stress caused two children involved in the case. Though any responsible loving parent would work hard to shield the children from any knowledge or exposure to the divorce process, most children are able to pick up on the stress and anxiety coming from their parents and often unintentionally are placed in the middle of their parents’ conflict during the divorce. If the parties can bring their dissolution of marriage to a quicker resolution, they can greatly minimize the risk of stress on their children.
The fourth reason stated above for parties to seek an uncontested in the to the marriage is to preserve their ability to get along peacefully in the future so that they can work together in raising their children. Family court judges are very quick to point out to high conflict litigants that there are going to be birthdays, school graduations, weddings, and holidays, where their children are going to want both parents to be there. Further, that if the parents cannot stand to be in the same room with each other than they will always force their children to be stuck in the middle of the conflict which will continue to cause unnecessary stress on children of divorce and lead to emotional trauma and unhealthy relationships throughout their adult years.
Sean Smallwood is a family law and divorce lawyer in Orlando Florida, and he places an emphasis in every single dissolution of marriage case on attempting to resolve the case peacefully before ever allowing the case to see the inside of a courtroom.
If your desire is to resolve your case on an uncontested basis, contact our office today.
What is the Difference Between Uncontested and Contested Divorce?
Where an uncontested divorce is based on the idea that both parties agree on all major issues regarding dissolving the marriage a contested divorce is appropriate when this is not the case. Very often with uncontested divorces the parties may begin the process on an uncontested basis and begin to disagree on certain issues along the way. This can certainly lead to increased legal fees for the client as well as litigation. Additionally, many parties think divorce will allow themselves to be taken advantage of because they hold out an unrealistic hope of doing it “uncontested” and trying to save a few dollars. An Orlando uncontested divorce attorney can guide you through the steps of an uncontested divorce.
Building on the work described above, the contested divorce occurs when the parties seeking a divorce are in disagreement on any issue to the case. Some examples of often contested issues are: alimony, division of assets, use of marital home, child custody, payment of attorney’s fees, and child support to name only a few.
In most jurisdictions, parties who choose a contested divorce will also have to exchange a certain amount of financial discovery, as set forth in the Florida statute, such as recent tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, and more. This allows the court and the attorneys to get an accurate snap shot of each party’s financial posture on order to properly figure things such as support payments and/or division of assets.
After the parties complete this process of financial discovery, most circuits will require them to attend mediation before they can set any non-emergency maters for hearings that would require any testimony. If the parties are not able to settle their disputed issues at mediation, then they can do additional discovery and set the matter for trial in front of the divorce judge.
Uncontested Divorce in Florida: When Is It the Right Option?
When both spouses agree that their marriage is not working and they have found some middle ground on various aspects such as child custody, property division, alimony, and child support, the spouses can opt for an uncontested divorce.
Schedule a private consultation with an Orlando uncontested divorce attorney from the office of Sean Smallwood, P.A., to determine whether your divorce issues can be resolved out of court and identify the optimal strategy for obtaining the most favorable outcome.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
If a divorce petition along with the necessary paperwork were filed by an experienced Orlando uncontested divorce attorney, final judgment would be entered about 30 days after the filing date.
Under Florida law, a final judgment of divorce cannot be entered for at least 20 days from filing. If you chose the “no hearing” option when filing for divorce, neither you nor your spouse would need to appear in front of a judge in court.
In fact, you will not even have to visit the judge or clerk’s office to obtain a copy of the final judgment as the document will be sent to your home address.
How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in Florida?
To start the process of an uncontested divorce, you are required to file a petition for divorce. Your divorce lawyer will access and fill out the forms for you to ensure that all of the necessary forms are completed.
Once you have filed the petition with your county clerk’s office, copies of the court forms submitted by you and your lawyer must be served to the other spouse. The other spouse must file a response after the papers were served. If there is no response, the divorce case goes to the judge by default.
At this point, both spouses must exchange financial information about their assets, property, and debts. The presence of a lawyer is recommended when dividing up your property and debt to ensure the most favorable and fair outcome.
The divorce is granted after both spouses have reached a settlement agreement approved by the judge.
Uncontested Divorce with Children, Alimony, or Other Issues
Not all uncontested divorces qualify for the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage process. If you have children or you’re expecting to pay or receive alimony, you must go through the regular Florida divorce process. However, your divorce can still be relatively quick and painless if you and your soon-to-be-former spouse agree on child custody, you create a parenting plan that meets Florida’s parenting plan requirements, and you work out a fair and reasonable alimony arrangement. If you and your soon-to-be-former spouse do not agree on a certain aspect of your divorce, but you still see eye-to-eye on most issues, you can try mediation to resolve the issue and ultimately stay the course for an uncontested divorce.
Speak with an Experienced Orlando Family Law Attorney About Uncontested Divorce in Florida
Simply because your divorce is uncontested, that doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from consulting with an experienced Florida family law attorney. The necessary forms can be confusing, and once they are entered in court, they can’t be altered. The Simplified Dissolution of Marriage process also eliminates your right to a trial or an appeal. Make sure your rights and interests are protected before you file for divorce when you still have the option to engage and negotiate. Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. to discuss your needs and concerns with a caring and experienced Orlando family law attorney.
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Questions To Ask If You Want An Uncontested Divorce
Divorce is a very difficult life event to deal with. This is made significantly more traumatic when the parties to the case cannot agree on major legal issues in the case. For this reason, it is important to use your most diligent efforts to obtain an uncontested divorce whenever possible.
How Fast Do You Need To Settle Your Divorce Case?
One of the biggest mistakes that I see people make is where they try too hard to settle their case before the time is right. The most common scenario we see is when the spouse will talk to the other spouse about whatever their burning issue is trying to reach a verbal agreement before the case is filed, lawyers are involved, or anyone is even ready to put an agreement in writing.
Let’s use the example of a divorce involving alimony. Though I am using a Husband in an alimony case for this example it can easily be switched with a Wife in another type of case such as child custody.
In this example, nobody has hired divorce attorneys and the parties have only recently started discussing divorce. The Husband desperately wants to settle the issue of alimony because he has heard horror stories about men in his position being raked over the coals.
The Husband constantly harasses the Wife with verbal proposals on what he is willing to pay for alimony and ultimately offers to pay $1,000.00 per month in alimony and that this was the highest amount that he could possibly agree to.
Remember: Verbal Agreements in Divorce Rarely Mean Anything
The problem here is that the Husband gave the other party too much information about his bottom line. When the Wife tells her lawyer that the Husband is willing to pay $1,000.00 per month the lawyer is going to view that as the starting point for negotiation and will set their mind on obtaining an amount higher than that.
Even though the Husband’s intention was for $1,000.00 to be the highest amount he could pay, it is a safe bet that the opposing lawyer will not see it that way. The Husband gave away too much information early in the case about what he was willing to pay and by doing that he lost a lot of his negotiating power on that legal issue.
What information do you need from your spouse about settlement terms?
What the Husband in this hypothetical situation should have done was to ask the Wife some gentle, open-ended, but probing questions to find out what her expectations were on the issue of alimony.
He could have asked her questions such as, “how much do you think you deserve?”, or “ How much do you think I can afford to pay?”, and even “What do you believe would be a reasonable amount of alimony in this case?”
That is the point where the Husband should take those answers and sit down with an Orlando divorce attorney and draft a comprehensive divorce settlement agreement to present to the Wife for her review and signature.
In summary, one of the biggest mistakes that we see people make in divorce negotiations is trying to settle the case verbally with their spouse too early in the process. Instead of gathering information and then sitting down with their lawyer to craft a proposed settlement, they give away too much information that takes away their negotiating power and makes the case ultimately more difficult for them.
If you are going through a divorce in central Florida then call Sean Smallwood, P.A. today to schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss your rights today. We serve all areas of Orlando, FL.
How Can I Get An Uncontested Divorce if I Can’t Control My Spouse?
I know what you’re saying here. “But Sean, I can do all the feel-good stuff I want but what if my spouse is going crazy during the divorce?”
This is absolutely correct you cannot control your spouse but what you can control is the example that you set for them as well as whether or not you choose to pour gasoline on the flames of their emotions through this process.
What I mean is this, if you’re both spinning out of control emotionally during the divorce you are both basically pouring fuel on the emotional flames of each other and perpetually increasing the conflict more and more each day.
But what if only one of you was emotionally out of control while the other was completely calm, rational, polite, and reasonable? In that situation, you are going to have far less conflict and far greater odds of peace in your divorce case.
How Do I Choose The Right Divorce Lawyer?
Aside from the reasons stated above, the second biggest cause of conflict in divorce is choosing the wrong lawyer to represent you.
The lawyer is in a position of great trust for most of their clients.
Divorcing parties look to their lawyers for guidance as to what is fair and equitable under the law and what they should even be asking about an uncontested divorce in the first place.
There are many lawyers out there unfortunately who understand that the advice they give to their clients can greatly impact the profitability of the case for the lawyer.
Here’s what I mean: let’s say your spouse sends over a settlement proposal and you look it over and think to yourself, “I might be able to agree to this with a few small tweaks”. However, your lawyer jumps up and says, “Oh no, absolutely not. There is no way I’m letting you agree to this it is total BS.”
This is a very common occurrence in divorce. The problem is that the more the case litigates, the more money the lawyer makes. The less the case litigates, the less the lawyer makes.
There are times when a case should litigate, but you are not in a position to know the difference and you must find a lawyer who you can trust to have your best interest in mind.
Having your best interest in mind goes a lot further in my opinion than just fighting for every dime that you could go after.
What most attorneys fail to recognize is the fact that there is value to an early settlement. The time and emotional energy that the client saves by settling the case early has value to a lot of people. It’s hard to put an exact price tag on it, however, many divorcing spouses would rather leave that dime on the table than get 500 gray hairs fighting over it.
That’s the part that many divorce lawyers completely overlook and if they are not making their clients aware of this phenomenon then this is a red flag.
When you sit down with any divorce attorney for a consultation, ask them what their settlement rate is for divorce cases. If it’s 50% or more that is good if it’s 75% or more, even better.
If their settlement rate is less than 50% that is a sign that you are talking to someone who does not understand the value of settling cases. If their settlement rate is 25% or less then you are talking to somebody who is not open-minded to settlement and that lawyer is probably not a good fit for you.
More Uncontested Divorce Resources:
- Questions to ask lawyer about an uncontested divorce
- How to make sure your divorce goes uncontested