The decision for divorce is not always mutual. Although Florida allows one party to make the decision to divorce even though it goes against the wishes of the other party, you may be able to convince your spouse to reconsider. If you are faced with an impending divorce, here are some steps you can take to slow down the divorce process.
If the Divorce has not yet been filed:
1) Communicate – Talk calmly with your spouse to find the reasons for them wanting a divorce. Listen to your spouse – do not get defensive (even if you don’t agree with what they are saying). Ask them what you can do to try and fix your marriage.
2) Change your behavior – If your spouse is contemplating divorce because they are not happy with certain behaviors you exhibit – change your behavior. It is not enough to say you will change, you must show them with actions, not words.
3) Go to Marriage Counseling – If you and your spouse have not tried counseling, or have in the past, try to convince them to give it one last try.
4) Go to Mediation – Explain to your spouse the high cost of litigating a divorce and try to convince them to start with mediation before filing for a divorce. With a neutral mediator, you may be able to convince your spouse that the marriage can be saved.
If your spouse has filed for divorce:
1) When you have been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the first thing you need to do is hire an attorney. Generally, you cannot hire an attorney you and your spouse have jointly used in the past as this might create a conflict of interest. Tell your chosen attorney that you do not want the divorce and they can help you decide on a plan of action.
2) In Florida, you have twenty (20) days from the date you were served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to respond and file an Answer. If you fail to respond before the twenty days, the Court may enter a default and you will not be able to contest the divorce. You simply can’t afford to bury your head in the sand if you do not want a divorce. You must file an answer within the twenty days after service. In other words, if you are facing a divorce that you don’t want, don’t ignore the problem. Ignoring the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage will actually speed the divorce up and not allow you to have a full say in the matter.
3) When filing out your Answer, you must Deny the allegation that the marriage is irretrievably broken. When you deny that the marriage is irretrievable broken in your Answer, the Court must have an evidentiary hearing pursuant to Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b). This will force your spouse to come to Court and tell the judge that the marriage cannot be fixed. It is unlikely that the Court will hold the hearing immediately after you file your Answer and this may bide you a few extra weeks to convince your spouse that you can reconcile. At the hearing ask the judge, per to Florida Statute §61.052(2)(b) to either:
a) Order either or both of the parties to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi or any other person deemed qualified by the court and acceptable to the other party or parties.
b) Continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed three months to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation.