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The Divorce Process: Important Steps to Know when Filing

1. Once the divorce petition is filed with the court, it must be served on the opposing party. The party filing for divorce should be aware that many attorneys now monitor the new filings with the court and may send your spouse a solicitation letter prior to him or her being served. This often creates an awkward situation where a spouse may learn of the divorce prior to being served. The parties need to be aware that this is a possibility.

2. In many counties, once you file for divorce there is a standing administrative order, which prevents you from concealing, damaging or disposing of any asset. For example, you are prohibited from taking out a mortgage on a piece of property or alternatively from stopping paying the mortgage on a piece of property. Essentially, the financial status quo should be maintained during the pendency of the divorce. This often creates issues if one spouse wants to move out and buy a new residence. In order to do so, they would need the consent of the other party or the court.

3. The use of funds or income after separation must be accounted for and justified as reasonable and necessary for the necessities of the party or to preserve marital assets or pay marital debts. The parties may spend their incomes in the ordinary course of their personal and family affairs. However, neither party may conceal, hoard or waste jointly owned funds. Attorney’s fees and costs are necessities and also must be accounted for.

4. If children are involved and timesharing may become an issue, it is important to keep track of the overnights and time that you spend with the children. It is important to log this information into a neatly organized calendar, so that your attorney can present the information to the court should it become necessary Many times one party will claim that the other party does not have the ability to exercise a 50/50 timesharing schedule due to busy work schedules or other obligations. Keeping a calendar will help rebut or prove these allegations.

5. If your spouse is seeking alimony from you, it is important that you keep track of and provide proof for all of your income and all of your expenses. Alimony currently is based on need and ability to pay. Your spouse will be required to show that he or she has the need for you to pay alimony. Additionally, your spouse will be required to show that you have the ability to pay alimony. Keeping organized records of your income and expenses will assist in defending or mitigating an alimony claim.

6. Alternatively, if you are seeking alimony from your spouse and are not currently employed, it is important that you begin applying for jobs. In defending against the alimony claim, your spouse will most likely try to impute income you. In other words, they will attempt to say that you have the ability to get a job and make money and therefore do not need alimony or do not need as much alimony as you are requesting. Applying for jobs and acquiring a job helps eliminate this argument by showing your actual earning potential. This also helps prevent the need for expert witnesses, which may be costly.

7. In most counties in Central Florida, the parties are required to attend mediation prior to seeking relief from the judge on any temporary matters. For emergency issues or discovery matters, it may still be possible to seek relief from the court, even if the parties have not attended mediation.