- Florida’s divorce rate attributes to it being one of the most stressed in the nation.
- An uncontested divorce can be settled in as little as a month.
- On the other hand, a contested divorce can take over 6 months to finalize.
Florida divorce court proceedings may have a few surprises in store for individuals who are not prepared for the state’s unique laws and procedures. Without proper preparation and knowledge of the applicable Florida divorce laws, you could get caught off guard. You could then miss your opportunity to reach the outcome you had in mind.
There are also a number of divorce court tips Orlando family law attorneys know that can help you in general. These tips apply almost across the board to all states, and they can even provide guidance if you haven’t yet decided to file for divorce.
If you already have or are strongly considering filing for divorce in Florida, you can use the following 5 top Florida divorce court tips to help you succeed in achieving your preferred outcome.
Know Why the Divorce Is Proceeding, and Treat the Matter as Objective Fact
If there’s one thing you and your spouse need to agree on during your divorce, it’s why the marriage wasn’t working.
Under Florida law, a marriage cannot be granted dissolution (a divorce) unless the marriage “is irretrievably broken” or the spouse has been mentally incapacitated for at least three years. You or your spouse will therefore need a reason for the divorce, and you will both have to agree more or less that this reason for divorce is sound.
Having grounds for divorce is therefore a critical component of any Florida divorce case. Common reasonings include adultery, abuse, or a spouse that’s rarely present. Other reasonings, like constant conflict or money problems, may need to be explained in greater detail so that a judge knows they cannot be reconciled easily. Otherwise, the judge may recommend counseling for a period of up to three months before the divorce can proceed further.
Know Your Financials Inside and Out, Including Average Monthly Expenses and Income
A divorce is supposed to lay bare every penny and every last scrap of property in a marriage. Courts expect exact numbers for income, expenditures, and assets. They’ll also want explanations for things like occasional expenses, such as vacations, or sporadic income, like the sale of a car.
Financial documents are used not just as an inventory of what each spouse can lay claim to; they also to paint a picture of a lifestyle in general. For instance, if your kids are used to going to Disney World with your extended family once a year, the expenses related to that trip could potentially be a legitimate part of a child support claim if you can justify how it relates to the children’s standard of living.
You should also have accurate estimates for future childcare and other expenses. These costs often take divorced couples by surprise.
Come to your court proceedings prepared to give exact numbers and dates to all transactions, income, expenses, and purchased property. You should also have the information available to back up whether an asset is a joint asset or something belonging just to one spouse.
Practice Your Poker Face
During divorce hearings and trials, a judge will have absolutely zero patience for drama and obvious displays of emotion. Even still, your self control will likely be tested. Your spouse and their divorce attorney will likely present things in their case that they consider a “fact” but you know to be an outright exaggeration. They may also attempt to paint an unflattering picture of you and your past behaviors.
Know that if you react in any way to allegations or assertions, you’ve played into your spouse’s attorney’s hands. Judges base their rulings and decisions on both presented evidence and strength of character. In other words, someone who acts out in court is much less likely to earn sympathy or respect from a ruling judge.
As such, do not roll your eyes or glare or sigh openly in response to your spouse’s or their attorney’s declarations. Use only appropriate language. Definitely do not outburst in order to declare: “that is a lie!” Instead, make a note of the discrepancy and pass it along to your attorney.
Don’t Guess or Fabricate, Say “I Don’t Know”
The absolute worst thing you can do in response to a question from either your attorney or your spouse’s is to start making things up.
Most humans have an innate desire to please others, and that instinct can extend to answering questions in a way that doesn’t gel completely with the known truth. It’s less a desire to mislead and more of what we colloquially call “spitballing” — we’re using what we know to extrapolate into the unknown.
Unfortunately, each guesstimate can dig you into a deeper hole. The judge may take your speculation as truth, or the opposing attorney could use your statements to trap you in a contradiction.
If you do not know the full answer to a question you’re asked, you should never guess or make an estimate unless the lawyer questioning you has their inquiry reaffirmed by the judge. Instead, say “I do not know” if you don’t have that information or “I do not recall at this time” if you think you can determine the information but don’t have it available right now.
Don’t Overplay Your Hand or Outbid Yourself
Legal proceedings involve strategically revealing information at the opportune time. Giving away information that no one asked for could thereby hurt any strategic informational advantage you have.
As such, try to answer any questions as precisely as you can without oversharing. Otherwise, it could be like outbidding yourself in an auction or telling a fellow poker player too much about your hand.
For example, let’s say you were asked a question about your spouse’s mishandling of joint accounts. You do not have to give any examples of how you have used the account for discretionary expenses unless you are specifically asked.
With that said, don’t try to be outright deceptive with the information you withhold or choose to divulge. If a judge or the opposing attorney realizes that you are trying to deliberately mislead through your selective use of facts, it could hurt your case.
You Can Work With Orlando Family Law Attorneys to Strategize Your Divorce Case
Divorce cases can be complex, and some of the legal questions being asked can catch someone by surprise if they are not adequately prepared.
Know that you can strategize for your case and potentially strengthen the body of evidence available when you work with experienced Orlando family law attorneys.
You don’t have to tackle your divorce court appearances alone! Contact us now to get answers to your pressing Florida divorce questions and to begin crafting a smart strategy for your next divorce court appearance.