What to Expect in Family Law Jacksonville, FL
As an attorney in family law Jacksonville, FL, many of my clients have limited or no experience with the legal system. The people that hire my firm are good, hardworking people from all walks of life — busy with jobs, businesses and/or raising children. When searching for a lawyer, they are looking for a lawyer that is honest, responsive and will guide them through the divorce or family law process.
Initial Free Consultation
My firm offers one free forty-five-minute initial consultation to provide a general assessment of their case and provide an opportunity for potential clients to get to know me and my firm. Generally, you do not need to bring anything to the free consultation. For example, I will not typically review prior divorce judgments and pleadings during a consultation. The initial consultation is essentially a live FAQ session. It is not designed to render legal opinions, because the legal opinion process typically requires a more thorough analysis of the case than what is available in forty-five minutes.
Hiring The Taylor Law Office and Overview of Family Law Case Process
Once you hire The Taylor Law Office, I will e-mail a questionnaire for you to complete which asks for information to draft divorce and/or family law documents and gain an understanding of the case. I will also send a list of documents for you to gather that are necessary to process the case. The most common request for documents are client’s mandatory disclosures. Florida law requires that both parties exchange the following documents: http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/932.pdf.
After you have completed the questionnaire, we will schedule a meeting to review the petition or counter-petition (or other pleadings) to ensure that the language of the petition or supplemental petition meets your goals, and the names and facts of the petition are accurate.
After the petition or the answer/counter-petition have been filed, we will work together to complete your mandatory disclosures, complete the discovery request propounded by the other party and determine what additional discovery we need from the other party.
After discovery is completed, we will determine if experts are necessary to successfully litigate the case. If experts do not need to be retained, we will set the case for trial (an end date).
In Northeast Florida, prior to going to trial courts require that the parties attend mediation. In my practice, about 80% to 90% percent of cases are resolved in mediation. The key to successful mediation is thorough preparation. Prior to mediation, we meet to review the discovery, discuss strengths and weaknesses of the case, develop proposed time-sharing plans (if children are involved), calculate child support (if children are involved), discuss alimony, and put together a proposed equitable distribution works sheet.
If mediation is not successful, we will prepare for trial. At this stage, we will review discovery for trial exhibits, determine which witnesses are necessary for trial, confer with experts (if experts have been retained), issue witness subpoenas, retain a court reporter, prepare trial questions and trial notebooks, and review case law.
After the trial is completed and the final judgment has been entered, we will review the judgment to determine if any post-trial motions or appeals are warranted. Family law judges have very broad discretion to make rulings; therefore, appeals are generally limited to clear errors on the part of the judge.
How Long Does the Divorce Process Take to Complete?
Florida law requires that the parties wait at least 20 days from the filing of the divorce petition prior to granting a divorce judgment; therefore, the quickest a divorce case can be completed is twenty (20) days. Please note that the time tables below are general guidelines. There are unique situations which may cause a case to be resolved more quickly or slowly than the time tables set forth below.
Generally speaking, uncontested divorce cases are completed between 30 to 90 days from the date of filing. The timing depends on how fast the parties complete the necessary documents, such as financial affidavits, as well as the courts’ schedules. I will work with proactive clients to complete the case as soon as possible.
Most contested cases end in mediation. Mediation typically occurs four to nine months from the filing date of the divorce petition. The timing of the mediation depends on the volume of discovery, whether experts have been retained and the schedules of both the mediators and the attorneys.
Cases that do not resolve in mediation typically reach the courts for trial between nine months to a year and half from the date of filing.