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Can You STOP Your Divorce in Florida for Counseling? Understanding Your Options Under Florida Law

By Jarbath Pena Law Group

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Did you or your spouse just file for divorce?

Do you have a minor child in common?

Did the respondent (non-filing party) file an answer refuting the claim that your marriage is irretrievably broken?

Or, do you find yourself in the midst of divorce proceedings, but as the case progresses, you realize you are not quite ready to throw in the towel? Maybe you believe there is still hope for reconciliation, and you’re considering counseling as a last-ditch effort to salvage your marriage.

Can you hit the pause button on your divorce to give counseling a shot?

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Divorce proceedings can be emotionally taxing and tumultuous experiences. In the State of Florida, couples undergoing divorce have an opportunity to pause the process for counseling. Today, the attorneys at the Jarbath Peña Law Group will delve into the intricacies of the law and explore your options for potentially stopping or at least temporarily halting the divorce process in favor of counseling.

What Does Florida Statute § 61.052(2)(b) Say about stopping your divorce to seek counseling?

Florida Statute § 61.052(2)(b) allows couples to pause their divorce proceedings for up to three months to seek marriage counseling. This provision recognizes the importance of counseling in resolving marital conflicts and aims to give couples a chance to reconcile before finalizing their divorce.If there is a minor child of the marriage, or if the respondent (non-filing party) files an answer to the initial petition for dissolution of marriage saying that they do not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken—the judge can order the couple to attend counseling and attempt to work out their issues and save the marriage.

Person seeking counseling from spiritual advisor while drinking coffee or tea

They can seek help from a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi, or any other person deemed qualified by the court.

The statute also says that:

  • The judge can pause the proceedings for up to 90 days to give the spouses a chance to work it out for themselves, or 

  • Take any other action the court deems necessary to further the best interests of the couple and child(ren) of the marriage.

But what if the divorce is already underway? Suppose the process has been advancing, but in the middle, you decide you want to attempt reconciliation? In that case, you can file a Motion to Abate the proceedings. 

Motion to Abate: What If Your Spouse Disagrees with going to counseling?

If the divorce is underway, but both spouses agree to attempt to reconcile, they can file a joint Motion to Abate. If filed jointly, the judge will likely give the couple time to attempt reconciliation.

If your spouse disagrees with halting the divorce proceedings for counseling or reconsideration, it can complicate matters. First, it’s essential to note that under Florida law, the decision to pause divorce proceedings for counseling ultimately lies with the judge overseeing your case. In legal terms, this discretion means that the judge has the authority to decide based on the circumstances presented to them.  

If the spouses disagree, the judge will hear arguments from both sides on whether or not to pause the case while the parties attempt reconciliation. The judge will consider both parties’ arguments and the overall context of the case. If your spouse is adamantly against pausing the divorce, the judge may be less inclined to grant a stay of the proceedings. 

Do You Need an Attorney to File This Motion?

While you’re not legally required to have an attorney to file a motion for a stay of divorce proceedings, it’s highly recommended. An experienced family law attorney can provide invaluable guidance throughout the process, ensuring motions are properly prepared and presented to the court. Additionally, an attorney can advocate on your behalf and help you navigate any legal challenges or objections raised by your spouse.

How Long Can You Get for Counseling Before the Divorce Process Kicks in Again?

According to Florida Statute § 61.052(2)(b), the judge has the discretion to suspend divorce proceedings for a period not exceeding three months. During this time, you and your spouse would be expected to actively engage in counseling and demonstrate a genuine effort to reconcile. If, at the end of the specified period, the judge is satisfied that progress has been made and reconciliation is possible, the stay may be extended, or the divorce proceedings may be dismissed altogether. However, if the couple makes little progress or one party decides to proceed with the divorce despite counseling efforts, the divorce process will resume as normal.

What Happens If Counseling Works and You Both No Longer Want to Divorce?

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If counseling is successful and you and your spouse reconcile, you can choose to withdraw the divorce petition altogether. In such cases, you can notify the court of your decision to dismiss the divorce proceedings. If you were to later change your mind, you could always file a new petition for dissolution of marriage.

What Happens If Counseling Doesn’t Work and You Want to Continue Your Divorce?

If counseling does not lead to reconciliation, and you still wish to proceed with the divorce, you can resume the divorce proceedings after the counseling period ends. In this case, you would need to inform the court of your decision to continue with the divorce, and the process would proceed accordingly.

How Can an Attorney Help with This Process?

An attorney can play a crucial role throughout your divorce process. We can help draft your divorce petition and ensure that you include all necessary elements, and we can assist if you decide to request a stay in the proceedings. If your spouse does not agree with your Motion to Abate the proceedings, we can help present your reasons for abatement to the court.

Let the Professionals at the Jarbath Peña Law Group Help

Whether you’re considering counseling as a means to reconcile with your spouse or seeking guidance on how to proceed with your divorce, it’s essential to understand your options under the law. If you’re facing a divorce and are considering counseling, don’t hesitate to reach out to a knowledgeable family law attorney for assistance. 

The attorneys at The Jarbath Peña Law Group understand the emotional and legal complexities of going through a divorce. And we know you might have second thoughts as the case progresses. Let us help. Call today at 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form to set up your initial consultation. 

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