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What is the normal timetable for a divorce?

Tampa divorce attorneys are constantly asked about the timetable for a divorce case.  It is important to remember a few things during consideration of the divorce timetable.  First, court cases by their nature take a significant amount of time – things do not move quickly in court.  Secondly, many times ensuring the case is adequately prepared for a final hearing or trial requires some time.  Lastly, the court requires certain requirements, hearings and steps happen at certain times during the pendency of your Tampa divorce.

First, the Respondent, the party that the divorce was filed against, has twenty (20) days to respond, so literally nothing can happen during that time period.  Many times, the process for the Petitioner will literally begin months and months prior to the filing of the Petition.  We provide our clients a lengthy packet of questions and requests for documents to assist in moving the case quickly and properly complying with all mandatory disclosures once the case actually begins moving quickly.   During the next two (2) to three (3) months after the filing an Answer to the Petition, discovery will take place.  Depending on the allegations in the case and the nature of the parties, discovery can go on well beyond three (3) months.  For example, if the parties have substantial financial resources and/or allegations of abuse, discovery will go well beyond three months.  The Hillsborough County Clerk of Court automatically sets a Case Management Conference within approximately ninety (90) days of the beginning of the case, so that the case can continue proceeding to a trial/final hearing.  Once discovery is completed, negotiations will occur between the attorneys since both sides will essentially have an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

The Court will require mediation in family law cases.  We generally advise folks that mediation will occur within approximately 120 days.  Again if the case is complex or involves unique circumstances, mediation will occur later in the proceeding.  Many family law cases resolve at mediation, especially if there are no time sharing issues or those issues have been resolved prior to mediation.  As you can imagine, time sharing often presents the most difficult issues to resolve at mediation.  Mediation involves the parties coming together with a third party mediator.  The mediator is charged with trying to resolve the issues between the parties by suggesting solutions and highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position.  An experienced family law mediator will essentially let each party know why they can win or lose at a final hearing, this has a profound impact on parties during mediation.

Secondly, if the case doesn’t resolve at mediation, it will proceed to a final hearing/trial.  In family law cases, the trial is more often than not referred to a final hearing.  The court will then require a pretrial hearing before the final hearing to ensure all discovery and other pretrial issues are resolved before the final hearing.  It is worth noting that just because a case doesn’t resolve at mediation, negotiations will continue and many, many cases resolve between the pretrial hearing and final hearing.  During mediation and the final hearing, the parties will continue preparing for the final hearing by conducting further discovery, including depositions if necessary, preparing for testifying at final hearing and other similar issues.  Depending on the complexity of the issues in the case, it may be necessary to take depositions.  Depositions provide a critical discovery tool for Tampa divorce attorneys to further inquire into specific issues in the case.  Depositions also provide Tampa divorce attorneys a transcript to use for impeaching witnesses at a final hearing.

Lastly, a final hearing will occur within ten (10) to twelve (12) months from the beginning of the case.  Again if the case has many complex issues and witnesses, it may occur after twelve months.  The final hearing will likely take less than a day, unless it involves many witnesses and/or issues.   Again, many cases resolve within days of the final hearing.  A final hearing will involve the calling of witnesses and admitting of exhibits by both parties and argument by the attorneys.  Our trial experience gives our clients a significant advantage in final hearing given our advocacy skills and extensive experience with the Florida Evidence Code.   As I have told all of our clients, your final hearing is your opportunity to tell the Court/Judge your story.   Unfortunately throughout the divorce, parties do not really have an opportunity to talk directly with the Court/Judge.  The Final Hearing gives you that unique opportunity.

If you or someone you know has questions concerning the timetable of your divorce, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation.  We have handled these cases throughout the Tampa Bay area and will work to ensure you get everything you are entitled to during your divorce.  If you want to contact one of our Tampa divorce attorneys immediately, please use our “contact us now” tab.  We appreciate your time in checking out our Tampa divorce attorney blog and look forward to working with you.