What Happens During a Divorce Hearing in Florida?

By Cindy Chung

A divorce can feel like a lengthy or intimidating process, especially if spouses have a contested case that requires court proceedings. When spouses cannot agree on the legal issues of their divorce, they may have several hearings at a Florida circuit court or need to participate in a divorce trial. What happens during a divorce hearing or trial depends on the stage of the case and each party's requests to the court.

A divorce can feel like a lengthy or intimidating process, especially if spouses have a contested case that requires court proceedings. When spouses cannot agree on the legal issues of their divorce, they may have several hearings at a Florida circuit court or need to participate in a divorce trial. What happens during a divorce hearing or trial depends on the stage of the case and each party's requests to the court.

Contesting Legal Issues

When one spouse files for a divorce, known as a dissolution of marriage in Florida, the other spouse may file an answer and counter-petition. A Florida circuit court will often require several court hearings when spouses cannot agree on the terms of their divorce and there are contested differences between the petition and answer or counter-petition. During a divorce hearing or trial, the court typically gives each spouse an opportunity to present witnesses and evidence as well as cross-examine the other party's witnesses. However, if both spouses agree to the divorce and qualify for a simplified dissolution, the court hearing often does not require testimony from witnesses or discussion of evidence presented by either party. Instead, a simplified dissolution allows the spouses to agree on a divorce based on their own terms.

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Obtaining Temporary Orders

Spouses can file requests for temporary court orders during a pending divorce case. For example, a spouse might request financial support through temporary alimony or child support. A spouse may also request a temporary injunction against the other party's conduct during a pending divorce — for example, a parent may want to prevent the other spouse from taking the child to another state or out of the country. If either parent files a petition or motion for a temporary order, the court may need to hold a hearing to make a decision on the issue

Receiving Referrals to Mediation and Settlement Services

In a circuit court hearing during a contested divorce, the judge may suggest or order both spouses to participate in mediation services. In some Florida counties, mediation is a requirement. If spouses can successfully settle the terms of their divorce in mediation, they can return to court for a hearing and ask the judge to approve their agreement. However, if the spouses do not reach an agreement, the court must set a future date for a divorce trial to discuss contested issues.

Finalizing the Divorce

Spouses are not legally divorced until a Florida circuit court issues the final judgment for a dissolution of marriage. A final judgment includes court orders regarding a division of the spouses' assets and debts, alimony, parental rights and other legal issues related to the divorce. In a final hearing or during a divorce trial, the judge may tell the parties about the terms of the court orders the judge plans to issue. If the spouses negotiated their own divorce settlement for the judge's approval, the judge may use the hearing to discuss parts of the settlement agreement. Once the divorce is final, former spouses may need to return to court for additional hearings. This typically occurs when a spouse starts an appeal or requests a modification of the divorce judgment.

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Divorce Process in Florida & Giving Up Rights

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Step-by-Step Divorce Process in Oregon

Oregon offers a summary divorce, but the summary process is limited to couples with certain qualifications, so most Oregon couples use the standard divorce process. Oregon divorce begins when one spouse files for divorce in the appropriate court and proceeds through an information gathering phase to a final trial or hearing. Then, the court grants a divorce decree, concluding the process.

What Happens If Divorce Papers Go Unsigned?

During the divorce process, the court and individual spouses’ attorneys ask both parties to sign agreements, petitions and affidavits. If one spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, it is still possible for the divorce to proceed. Such refusals usually slow down the divorce process and may lead to additional hearings, trials or mediation sessions, but will not preclude the couple from ending the marriage.

What Can a Spouse Waive in a Legal Separation?

State laws determine each spouse's rights during legal separation — these rights are often similar to the rights of spouses in a divorce. In an agreement for legal separation, a spouse can waive rights regarding assets, debts, alimony and other financial issues. Spouses can waive their own rights, but they often cannot waive rights related to their children. A husband or wife should fully understand the rights given by state law before signing a separation agreement that waives any of those rights.

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