How Does A Contested Divorce Work In Florida?

A divorce in Florida is known as a dissolution of marriage, and divorces can be either simplified or regular. Simplified divorces occur when both spouses petition the court for the divorce and are in complete agreement about how everything should be handled. In a regular divorce, only one spouse petitions the court for the divorce, and the other must respond to that petition.

Regular divorces can be even further broken down into uncontested and contested. Uncontested divorces happen when both spouses agree on how to divide marital assets and debts, handle child custody, or determine alimony payments. A contested divorce happens when the spouses do not agree on one or all of these things. In the case of a contested divorce, a judge ends up deciding how to split property, accounts, and time with children. The steps of a contested divorce case are:

Initial petition and response

After one spouse petitions the court for a dissolution of the marriage, that petition, along with a summons, is served to the other spouse via a sheriff or private process server. The receiving spouse, also referred to as the respondent, has 20 days to answer the petition or file their own counter-petition.

Disclosure of financial information

After the initial petition for divorce has been answered or a counter-petition has been served, it’s time to gather information about all the financial accounts and property of the two spouses. Depending on the number of accounts and complexity of finances, assembling all the required documents can take up to several months. However, Florida law states that each spouse must provide the other spouse with full financial disclosure and a signed financial affidavit within 45 days of the initial petition being served. This deadline can be extended, but the requirement for financial disclosure can not be waived. Paperwork for determining child support payments is also completed at this time.


Both spouses of a Florida divorce case destined for trial must attend mediation first. At mediation, a court-approved mediator will listen to both sides and compile a list of items that must be resolved to avoid proceeding to the trial. The mediator, along with the spouses and each of their attorneys, will attempt to find a suitable solution to each of the items in question. If at the end of mediation, an agreement is still not reached on all items, the case will head for trial.


The preparation for a divorce court trial almost always takes longer than the trial itself. In addition to collecting evidence and researching relevant laws and precedents, attorneys may also need to identify witnesses and complete depositions. All of this adds considerable time and cost to the case, which is why resolving differences in mediation is preferable.

During the divorce trial, the attorneys for both spouses will present their cases, including calling witnesses and introducing evidence. After hearing all of the information, the divorce court judge will make a decision on how to handle the issues the spouses were unable to agree upon. If a spouse still does not agree with the judge’s determination, there are appeal avenues.

No matter what type of divorce you are facing, hiring a skilled divorce attorney is a smart move. Florida’s laws surrounding the dissolution of marriage are complex and confusing. Don’t miss out on important deadlines or lose money trying to navigate the system yourself. Trust the divorce experts at Caveda Law Firm to handle your contested divorce case fairly and professionally. Call (813) 463-0800 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and speak with a member of our talented legal team about your case.