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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Orlando: Which Is Right for You?

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What Is the Difference Between Uncontested and Contested Divorce?

The dissolution of a marriage is a legal proceeding governed by Florida divorce law. The process involves making decisions on important matters such as child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of marital assets and debts. When a couple can reach agreements on all major issues without a judge deciding for them, a divorce is uncontested. It can be finalized relatively quickly, as there is no need for discovery or trial. Legal fees are much lower, as the process is more straightforward and quicker.

A contested divorce occurs when the parties cannot agree on major issues. The case goes to trial, and a family court judge decides on the issues after receiving all the facts and evidence. Discovery is an important part of the trial process, as both sides have a right to discover any evidence or information the other side has before the trial. Discovery is accomplished through subpoenas, interrogatories, requests to produce documents, and depositions.

Spouses going through a contested divorce are likely to have higher legal costs, which may include attorney fees and expert witness fees for appraisers, financial consultants, or other experts called in to testify on divorce matters. A contested divorce can take more time to finalize than an uncontested divorce. The process can continue for six months or longer.

Can You Appeal a Divorce in Florida?

Appeals are lengthy, costly, and complicated. An uncontested divorce is not eligible for appeal, as both parties consented to the arrangement in writing. In a contested divorce, it is possible to appeal the court’s ruling. However, you need a valid reason to do so and convincing evidence to establish grounds for appeal. A divorce judgment in Florida can be appealed on the grounds of:

  • Fraud
  • Concealment of assets
  • Newly discovered evidence
  • A legal mistake made by the trial court judge

A party dissatisfied with the judge’s ruling may appeal to the District Court of Appeal. The appeals court will review the case to determine if the trial court made any error in the determination or application of law or in deciding on the facts of the case. After its review, the appellate court may:

  • Overturn the ruling of the trial court
  • Determine that the trial court’s ruling was properly made
  • Send the case back to the trial court to issue a new ruling based on the opinion of the appellate court

What Are the Most Contentious Issues in Florida Divorces?

Divorcing spouses can disagree on many things, from who gets the painting in the dining room to who has custody of the family pet. Some of the most contentious issues in divorces include:

  • Child custody: Family law courts base child custody decisions on the best interests of the child. Factors they consider include each parent’s ability to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child, the stability of each parent’s home environment, each parent’s relationship with the child, and how well each parent will cooperate and encourage contact with the other parent.
  • Child support: When a couple with minor children divorces, one spouse may be ordered to make child support payments to the other. The amount of support is calculated according to specific state child support guidelines. Nevertheless, divorcing spouses may disagree on custody of the child, the income of the parents, or the amount or duration of child support.
  • Alimony: Also known as spousal support, alimony may be awarded to the lower-earning spouse when a marriage is dissolved. Senate Bill 1416, a new legislation that went into effect on July 1, 2023, eliminated judges’ ability to award permanent alimony. However, several other types of alimony may still be awarded, including durational alimony, the term of which is based on a percentage of the length of the marriage.
  • Division of marital property: This can be one of the most highly contested issues in a divorce. Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means marital assets and debts are distributed fairly but not necessarily equally. Any property acquired and any debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage are considered marital property.

Are There Alternatives to Trial When Spouses Cannot Agree on Divorce Terms?

Divorcing spouses who cannot agree on terms may try to settle their differences before going to trial. Alternative options include:

  • Mediation: This process is overseen by a neutral third party known as a mediator. He or she keeps divorcing spouses focused on resolving issues with a fair outcome rather than dwelling on past conflicts. Mediation allows the parties to control the outcome rather than leaving it in the hands of a judge.
  • Collaborative law: In this process, both parties and their attorneys work together to resolve issues out of court. Often, it can be more cooperative and less adversarial than litigation. The goal of collaborative law is that the parties enter into a written settlement agreement that addresses all issues of divorce.

Why Choose Us to Represent You in an Orlando Divorce?

Divorce can be a difficult step. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, The Law Office of Erin Morse can provide the experienced representation you need. We can guide you skillfully through the process, protect your rights and those of your children, and fight for the most favorable outcome in your case. Contact us to schedule a strategy session at (407) 743-6059.

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