How to Represent Yourself At a Divorce Trial In the State of Florida

By Victoria McGrath

When you represent yourself in a divorce, you must follow a series of steps to move the case forward to the final trial date. Once the divorce proceedings begin, you may disclose financial information, answer discovery requests, attend mediation and negotiate settlement agreements. Each legal document you prepare moves you closer to a final resolution in your divorce. If you fail to resolve all matters during pretrial negotiations, you attend your case management conference and a pretrial hearing, then proceed to trial.

Petition for Divorce

To initiate a divorce, you may complete a petition for dissolution of marriage, file it with the court and provide a copy to your spouse through service of process. The person who files the petition for divorce is the petitioner and the person who responds to the petition is the respondent. If your spouse initiates the divorce and serves you with divorce papers, you must file an answer with the Florida court within 20 days. Failure to respond to the divorce papers within the legal time frame means the divorce may proceed without your participation. For each petition, motion or pleading you file, you typically must serve a copy on the other party. If you are unable to pay filing fees, you can file an application for civil indigent status.

Mandatory Disclosures and Discovery

Florida has certain mandatory disclosures for both parties to a divorce. Each spouse completes a financial affidavit and includes detailed financial information, including employment income, rental income, marital assets, outstanding loans, credit card debts and household expenses. The court often requires each spouse to provide the other with a copy of financial records prior to trial. If you and your spouse disagree on the value of resources or extent of debt, the judge may request your financial records to resolve disputes and ensure proper distribution of marital property. After you file your petition for divorce, you and your spouse request and share information with each other through the discovery process. Discovery involves an exchange of information and evidence required to proceed with the divorce and resolve any issues in dispute.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Case Management Conference

After the discovery process, the judge may order you and your spouse to attend mediation to attempt to negotiate a settlement agreement. If you and your spouse fail to reach a marital settlement agreement that resolves all your marital issues, such as property distribution, child custody, child support and spousal support, your case proceeds to trial. Before your trial date, the judge typically schedules a case management conference. At the case management conference, the judge meets with both spouses, checks the progress on any marital settlement agreement and assesses the status of your case, without ruling on any issues.

Pretrial Hearing and Divorce Trial

After the case management conference, the judge typically schedules a pretrial hearing. During the pretrial hearing, the judge assesses the progress you and your spouse have made in reaching a martial settlement agreement. If you have resolved most but not all matters, the judge may order you to return to mediation and work out the remaining issues. If you cannot agree on any major issues, your case proceeds to trial as scheduled. At trial, you and your spouse each present your requests to the court and provide evidence to support your requests. You must follow the Florida rules of civil procedure and address the court in a professional manner. Court staff cannot advise you on how to testify, present evidence or draft legal documents.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Respond to a Divorce Complaint


Related articles

How to File for Divorce for Free in Florida

The state of Florida requires that divorces begin with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This sets the legal process of divorce in motion; eventually, the courts will hear the case and a judge will sign a final decree, at which point the divorce is complete and legal. Although the process can be expensive, state law provides for filing free of charge for those who qualify.

What Happens During a Divorce Hearing in Florida?

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.

Steps to Filing for Divorce in Pierce County, Washington

The state of Washington permits you to obtain a divorce if you or your spouse is a resident of the state. State law governs divorce cases, although each county court has its own rules regarding legal filings and fee schedule. In Pierce County, as in other Washington counties, the process begins with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Represent Yourself in a Dissolution

How you represent yourself in a dissolution depends in part on your marital circumstances. If you and your spouse agree ...

A Complaint for a Divorce With Children in Michigan

A complaint establishes the initial framework in a divorce. In Michigan, parties with minor children must file a ...

What Happens After Filing for Divorce in Oregon?

When you file for divorce, you will complete a divorce petition. The petition asks for personal information about both ...

What to Do if Your Spouse Will Not Sign Divorce Papers

In the case of a legal divorce, one party may not cooperate with the action, sign any agreements or negotiate any ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED