If you have made the very difficult decision to end your marriage and seek a divorce, you probably have questions about the divorce process. You might be confused about what you have to do to file for divorce, what happens once you file, and what you can expect as the case progresses.
Before you alert your spouse about a potential divorce, it is a good idea to gather documents, take inventory of property and keep proper records. Collecting as much accessible information as possible in advance will give you an “insurance policy” so that you can be sure that your spouse completely discloses important financial and property information that is relevant to your divorce.
If you have decided to hire an attorney to represent you through the divorce process, you should make sure that you select the right attorney for your specific needs and that you understand how to work with your attorney. Attorney selection can be a huge part of whether your case is “successful” or not, and this is one of the times where it is necessary for you to do your homework.
If you represent yourself during your divorce or family law matter, then you are considered a pro se party. If you choose to proceed without an attorney, the court, generally, will hold you to the same rules as an attorney, including applicable evidence rules at any hearings or trial. Additionally, as a pro se party, the court in general will hold you to any agreements that you enter into in your case. That means if you do not like what happened in your case, you usually cannot claim later that because you did not have the benefit of an attorney you did not know what you were signing or agreeing to, or that you made a mistake in how you handled something. The court cannot give you legal advice, so you will be held to your mistakes. Further, if you act as your own attorney, you will have to continue to deal with your spouse and his or her attorney on all of the issues in your case. This can cause further stress and strain on an already broken marriage or relationship, and it can cause additional stress on you.
The first and most obvious question that you should ask yourself before you begin a divorce is do you really want a divorce? Under Florida law, the legal requirement for divorce is simple—the court must find that your marriage is “irretrievably broken” prior to dissolving the marriage. From a practical standpoint, whether your marriage is irretrievably broken depends primarily on yours or your spouse’s view of the status of your marriage. If you are potentially considering a divorce, the very first thing that you should resolve is your level of certainty that you either cannot or will not save or fix your marriage. If you have resolved that issue, then you could testify to the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken and satisfy the legal requirement.
An article by family law attorney Nicole L. Goetz of Naples appears in the Spring 2019 issue of The Professional, a publication of The Florida Bar Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism. In the article, “‘Bounds of Advocacy’ Professional and Ethical Practice Guidelines for Florida Family Lawyers,” Ms. Goetz discusses the significance of the recently re-published “Bounds of Advocacy,” a comprehensive guide for Florida lawyers who practice in any area of family law. Ms. Goetz served as 2017-2018 Chair of The Florida Bar Family Law Section and appointed a committee to update the publication, which is intended to advise Florida lawyers on the professional and ethical dilemmas that are unique to the practice of family law. The “Bounds of Advocacy” offers goals for professional cooperation, competence and advice, conflict of interest, fees and children. It suggests a higher level of practice than the minimum baseline of conduct required by Florida Bar rules and spells out strategies for situations that often arise in family law where the rules don’t provide sufficient guidance. The Family Law Section offers the “Bounds of Advocacy” at no charge; it is available to download from the section’s website.
Nicole Goetz recently participated in the National Divorce Conference hosted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and Business Valuation Resources. Top matrimonial attorneys and financial experts presented sessions on cutting-edge topics such as divorce valuation, litigation issues, complex financial analysis and the latest trends in marital and family law. Divorce practitioners and valuation professionals who attended the event gained critical insights from nationally recognized presenters on the latest financial, forensic and legal issues in the matrimonial arena.
Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. is pleased that FL AFCC—the Florida Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts—published an article by Nicole Goetz in the March 2019 FLAFCC eNews. The article recaps the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar‘s recent revisions to the “Bounds of Advocacy,” a guide for Florida lawyers on the professional and ethical dilemmas that are unique to the practice of family law. Nicole appointed the Family Law Section’s ad hoc Bounds of Advocacy Committee to oversee the revisions during her term as section chair. FLAFCC is an organization of judicial, legal, mental health, financial and related professionals utilizing education, research and advocacy to improve the lives of children and families through the collaborative resolution of family conflict.
Nicole L. Goetz, P.L. attorneys Nicole Goetz and Toni Boettcher recently attended the 2019 Marital and Family Law Review Course in Orlando. The annual course is one of the largest continuing legal education events in the Southeast, and more than 1,600 attend. The course is a comprehensive review of Florida family law and is co-hosted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – Florida Chapter and the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. Nicole Goetz is the Immediate Past Chair of the Family Law Section. Here are some photos from the review course, its speakers’ dinner, and Family Law Section committee meetings, which are held each year in conjunction with the course.
Nicole L. Goetz recently presented on “Bounds of Advocacy: Goals for Family Lawyers in Florida” at a Lee County Bar Association luncheon sponsored by the judges of the Lee County Family and Uniform Family Court divisions. Ms. Goetz is the Immediate Past Chair of The Florida Bar Family Law Section, which last year published a newly revised version of the Bounds of Advocacy. The publication offers guidelines for family lawyers related to professional cooperation, competence and advice, conflict of interest, fees and children and is an update from the original 2004 version. The Family Law Section Ad Hoc Bounds of Advocacy Committee—a group of Florida’s most experienced family lawyers—revised the guide to capture changes in marital and family law, ethics, professionalism, social media and technology.