By Orlando Divorce Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
The Three Steps To Prepare for a Divorce
Complete the financial affidavit, gather the financial disclosure documents and consult with a divorce lawyer. Follow the explanations below of how this is done and you will be prepared.
Why Prepare to Protect Your Rights While Dealing With The Stress
Divorces have almost become the norm, rather than the exception for married couples. Yet, few couples enter into their marriage with an exit plan. A tiny percentage of couples possess the forethought to execute a prenuptial agreement. However, for the vast majority that don’t dare think about the possibility of a dissolution of their marriage during the honeymoon phase, the realization that it is about to end is quite disconcerting.
When faced with a disolution of marriage, spouses must face the daunting task of protecting their rights. This is in addition to the inevitable emotional pain and stress associated with the breakup, But regardless of who initiates the divorce, neither spouse wants to be taken advantage of by the other in litigation. To avoid that you need to take the three steps.
With this in mind, I have prepared the following “to-do” steps for spouses that just learned that their divorce is imminent and want to prepare for it:
(1) Begin Filling Out The Financial Affidavit
The law requires that both spouses must complete and notarize a financial affidavit within 45 days of filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. This holds true even if both spouses agree on every issue in the divorce. This document lists the value of all of your assets and debts and considerable details about your income. Having it done early not only reduces the stress of beating the deadline, but it also provides that spouse with an accurate inventory of the marital assets and debts at the critical time of filing. Marital assets are those that count towards splitting in half between the spouses (see Property Distribution In Divorce for more information). Until you have the facts of your financial affidavits and that of your spouse, no negotiations, settlements or final judgments by a court can occur.
You can obtain a financial affidavit form online by downloading it from your county’s clerk of court website.
(2) Start Gathering The Mandatory Disclosure Documents
Once you have completed your financial affidavit, you should start compiling the following financial documents that verify the numbers you listed in it:
- Last three pay stubs or a W-2 stating your income.
- Last three months of checking and savings account statements.
- Last three years of tax returns.
- Last three months of credit card statements (if applicable).
- A copy of either the deed to your home or if you rent, a copy of your lease.
- The most recent statement from any investment or retirement account (if applicable).
There are other mandatory disclosure documents listed under Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure, but the aforementioned ones are the most commonly applicable. You must also produce all of the documents on that list that are applicable to you and are in your possession and control within 45 days of the filing of the initial petition.
However, unlike in the case of the Financial Affidavit, both spouses may waive the mandatory disclosure requirement if they reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce. Still, it is unlikely that at this early stage of the process, you and your spouse are in agreement on everything. It is better to be prepared for a contested divorce, and then settle once both spouses have full disclosure of the finances of the other.
The information contained in the financial affidavit and the mandatory disclosure documents form the basis for child support and alimony (when applicable), as well as for equitable distribution of assets and debts that apply to virtually all married couples. With marital finances, full disclosure and accuracy are paramount.
(3) Consult With a Family Law Attorney
As a family lawyer since 2003 (and exclusively since 2011), I cannot stress enough the value of hearing a professional perspective on your divorce. Countless individuals have met with me over the years seeking to “undo” the disastrous divorce judgment that was handed to them. Quite often, they did not hire a family lawyer, while their spouse did. Unless your marriage does not involve either children or assets and debts (which is rare), “going it alone” will put you at a significant disadvantage. At least schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney who can identify the issues you will face and provide you with a game plan.
During my consultations with potential clients, I explain to them what their short-term and long-term goals should be. I answer all of their questions about the divorce process, then quote them a fair fixed retainer amount. At the end of the consultation, you can now face the disolution of your marriage without the anxiety created by uncertainty. If you are facing the prospect of a divorce, I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at 407-260-6001, and schedule an initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.
Our divorce attorney retainer fee for contested cases, up to the mediation stage, ranges between $2,400 and $3,600 depending on its complexity. An additional retainer amount is set before the trial if the settlement is not achieved during mediation. For an uncontested divorce the fees range from $1,200 to $1,800.
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