When the client meets with Mr. Leininger for the initial free consultation, he will outline the three possible methods of getting divorced in the state of Florida, namely pre-suit divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation. For our purposes now, let's assume that pre-suit divorce mediation is not a viable option (for example, our client says that his or her spouse already has a divorce lawyer and the client's spouse is not interested in using divorce mediation). Let's also assume that the attorney that the client's spouse has hired is not a trained collaborative divorce lawyer. Thus in this scenario, the only realistic option is to proceed to divorce litigation.
In some cases, our firm will, upon being retained to process a divorce in Court, send a friendly letter to our client's spouse advising the spouse that we have been retained to prosecute a divorce on our client's behalf and asking the client to have a divorce attorney of their own selection contact us in the hope that we can schedule a four-way settlement conference. In many cases, we will receive a letter or email from an attorney advising us that they have been retained by the spouse and we begin settlement negotiations, which will hopefully lead to a full settlement of all issues.
However, sometimes, we will advise the client that we do not believe that it is in their best interests for us to proceed with the friendly letter approach to their spouse prior to commencing the divorce action. The commencement of the divorce action in Florida is a very important date. It is on that date that the Court will "stop the clock" for equitable distribution purposes. For example, once the divorce action is commenced, that will be the date when the Court will want to know the value of all marital assets. There is also a standing order in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and in most divorce courts throughout Florida that in essence, creates an injunction preventing either party from taking steps that might prejudice the other party. For example, once a divorce action is commenced the petitioner is not permitted to cancel any existing insurance policies, such as health insurance, life insurance, etc. Nor can the petitioner transfer assets without consideration by making a gift of a large sum of money to a paramour, or a relative. Upon the respondent spouse being served with those Court papers, the respondent spouse is also bound by this injunction.
If we merely attempt settlement negotiations without the benefit of this automatic injunction, the other spouse may transfer or dissipate assets. In addition, once the divorce action has been commenced and the respondent spouse has been served with the petition for divorce, they will usually retain an attorney almost immediately. Since both parties will have to exchange financial records including income tax returns, W2 and 1099 forms, bank account statements, brokerage account statements, retirement plan statements, etc., there is no reason why either party would generally refuse to enter into settlement negotiations requiring production of those documents since the documents will have to be produced for the Court in a few weeks anyway.
Mr. Leininger will explain why he thinks that your divorce should either be started by the friendly letter to your spouse seeking to enter into settlement negotiations, or in most cases, why the respondent spouse should be served with the petition for divorce and once the respondent spouse has hired an attorney, Mr. Leininger can then discuss entering into settlement negotiations with the respondent spouse's attorney.
It is important that you understand that Mr. Leininger has been practicing divorce law for over 40 years and has personally handled over 2,000 divorces. He will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case and your spouse's case and will assist you in developing a settlement plan if at all possible.
After having discussed with you the benefits and detriments of commencing a divorce immediately as opposed to starting out with the friendly letter to your spouse, you will have the final decision on which way to proceed.
Settlement negotiations either shortly prior to the commencement of the divorce action or shortly after the commencement of the divorce action can frequently lead to an overall settlement being reached which will result in a substantial savings of time, stress, and legal fees.
If you wish to schedule a Free Consultation with Mr. Leininger, please call our law office at 941-727-5555 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. Please note that Mr. Leininger generally has appointments on Monday through Saturday, including some evening appointments. What have you got to lose?
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