One of the most common and persistent questions I get in my practice is: “How long will my divorce take and what can I do to speed up my divorce?” While it is nearly impossible for an attorney to predict exactly how long a divorce case will take, there are a few milestones in any case that can be predicted with some accuracy and steps that can assist in expediting your case.
Each of the following steps has certain factors that can speed up or slow down a case and my practice’s guidelines on approximately when these certain milestones take place.
1.From the onset when an Agreement for Representation and payment are completed, the Petition and petition-related documents have to be drafted. Typically, these documents are drafted in no later than five (5) business days after the initial Agreement and payment are received.
a.To ensure that your case is moving as fast as possible, it is important to ensure that you provide your attorney with all of the information related to the concerns you have from the very first consultation; holding back information means these documents may need to be revised.
b.Getting the Petition and petition-related documents signed and notarized as quickly as possible and back to the attorney will assist with expediting your case. Thoroughly reviewing these documents is extremely important, and so is returning them.
2.Once the Petition is filed, the paperwork will need to be formally served on the other party. This process means you will have to provide an accurate address where the other party can be found and when the other party will likely be available. Most process servers (the people who formally serve the other party) will attempt an address multiple times, ensuring the accuracy of the other party’s location and the times they will be available can make the difference between the party being served in one (1) week to two (2) or even more. Not having accurate location information for the other party can slow down the case quickly.
3.After filing the case, you are required to disclose certain information, known as Mandatory Disclosure, to the other party; this disclosure must occur within forty-five (45) days of the filing of the Petition. The other party will be required to disclosure this same information within forty-five (45) days from the date they get served. While it is not possible to speed up the other party’s forty-five (45) day requirement, getting your documents disclosed well within the forty-five (45) will prevent you from slowing down your case.
4.Mediation will likely be your first interaction in a court-related situation; typically, mediation will occur within three (3) to six (6) months (my firm’s average is about 4 months in normal cases) from the date of the filing of the Petition, assuming the case is moving at a normal speed. While Mediation is not Court and you will not see a Judge, it is required in Florida in all family law cases. Portions of Mandatory Disclosure are absolutely required before Mediation can be scheduled and delays with Mandatory Disclosure will delay Mediation.
a.If Mediation is successful and a full agreement is reached, then the Final Hearing will likely occur within a month.
5.If Mediation fails, then additional discovery of evidence is likely to occur and the case must be set up for Trial. Trial is where lengthy time delays can occur because the required discovery can take time to get together. On average, my firm gets cases to Trial in about nine (9) to twelve (12) months after Mediation. In this time, numerous court hearings may occur to answer discovery issues or one party will need temporary relief until a Trial occurs.
While it is impossible to determine the exact length of any case, my practice sees Mediation occur within approximately three (3) to six (6) months after the Petition was filed and Trial in about twelve (12) to sixteen (16) months after the Petition being filed.
It is important to remember that an attorney moving your case forward quickly is often in your best interest, time equals money, but it is often more important to be patient as some delays may be necessary to ensure that your case and the evidence is thoroughly handled to protect you and your interests.