Filing for a Divorce in Florida
Going through a divorce is never easy and can be a strain on time, emotions, and finances. While each of Florida's counties has slightly different requirements when it comes to filing for a divorce, the basics are the same, and so are your options. That said, be sure to look up your individual county to see what small changes do exist.
Grounds for Divorce
While some states require what is called a "fault-based" divorce, Florida has no such requirement. In Florida you can file for a divorce, officially called dissolution of marriage, for two reasons:
- Irretrievably broken marriage
- A spouse mentally incapacitated for at least three years
Irretrievably Broken Marriages
This is a fancy way to say "we don't get along anymore." Consequently, in Florida, a couple can divorce because the marriage is just not working out. No one needs to behave poorly in order to file for a divorce. However, it's important to note if a spouse has been cheated on or abused because such factors can help determine alimony, property, parental responsibility settlements, and so on.
Filing for a Dissolution of Marriage in Florida
In Florida, you must fill out a "dissolution of marriage" form for the county in which you live. A residency of six months is required. Anyone filling for a divorce in Florida must prove that she or he or a respective spouse has lived in the state for at least six months. Proof of this, as well as proof of the marriage, will be necessary
The first form you must complete is called the "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage." Within this petition you will need to include all issues you wish to be addressed in court: dividing assets, child support, alimony, etc. If you fill out the form you're considered the "petitioner" and if your spouse fills it out you are the "respondent." The form can be found in your local county clerk's office.
It's important to note that court clerks and judges may not provide you with legal advice regarding a divorce, though they are allowed to answer basic questions. In Florida, only a Florida family law attorney can give you legal advice.
Answer and Waiver of Service
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage respondent must receive a copy of the filed petition. This can be done hand to hand and given to your spouse's attorney; your county's sheriff's office may be able to deliver the petition; and your county may have private delivery processes available, which can be selected through your circuit county clerk's office. Lastly, if your spouse cannot be contacted, your county clerk can help you list the petition in the newspaper for 30 days, though you will have to pay a fee.
If the respondent agrees, he or she must also complete an "Answer and Waiver of Service" form, which can be found in a county clerk's office. This form must be signed by the respondent and notarized by a Florida notary. If the respondent does not agree, he or she must respond with the terms he or she desires, or a counter-petition.
Within 45 day of petitioning for a divorce in Florida, you must give your spouse a signed and completed financial affidavit. Found in the circuit court clerk's office, some of the information this form will include is assets, debts, tax returns, income, credit card statements, etc.
Types of Divorce
The next steps will change depending on what kind of divorce you're filing for. Two types of divorces exist in Florida, the regular dissolution of marriage, and the simplified dissolution of marriage.
Processes for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in Florida
If the following requirements are met, this option exist for couples in relative agreement who wish to have a simpler but often less expensive and legally protected forum of divorce:
- There are no children under 18 years old dependent upon the parents
- Spouses mutually agree the marriage is irretrievably broken
- No females are with child
- One spouse has been living in Florida for at least six months
- Neither spouse seeks alimony
- Spouses have filed financial affidavits with the court or have agreed the affidavit is not necessary
- Spouses agree on the division of assets, debts, etc.
- Spouses understand their ability to have a trial and appeal through this simplified divorce has been relinquished
If you do not qualify for all of the items listed above, this option is not available to you. It is also important to note that through a simplified dissolution of marriage neither spouse must provide requested financial information to each other, unlike in a regular dissolution of marriage.
Through a simplified dissolution of marriage, an attorney may not be required, though both spouses must still appear before a judge to be granted the final dissolution. You can hire an attorney to make sure everything has been done correctly, but such services will cost less for an uncontested matter. The couple must fill out and file all the appropriate paperwork the county requires. In fact, if a couple chooses this method, the circuit court clerk should be contacted so a "Simplified Dissolution Information" booklet explaining the required forms and more detailed information on this forum of divorce can be obtained.
Processes for Regular Dissolution of Marriage in Florida
This process starts through what was mentioned above. Either spouse may file a petition for dissolution of marriage through the circuit court in the country where he or she lives or in the country where he or she lived with a respective spouse. The petition should list what the petitioner desires from the court for the divorce. After a spouse is served such a petition, he or she has 20 days to respond to the demands within it and is allowed to offer a counter-petition.
In a regular dissolution of marriage, the court requires both spouses to provide a financial affidavit to the other several days before a court date or within 45 days of the petition. Failure to provide this information could in the case or the spouse's requests within the case being dismissed. In a case where financial relief of any sort is being requested, providing a financial affidavit is mandatory. The court also mandates a child support guidelines are completed before a hearing regarding child support.
Some courts require but all courts recommend mediation. Mediation is not an attempt at marriage reconciliation but a procedure aimed to help you and your spouse reach an agreement without needing a trial or protracted process, which tend to be expensive. A mediation can be conducted by court connected services or a privately trained mediator.
If a couple can decide upon how to split up property, debts, child support etc. and sign a mutual agreement, which can be presented to the court. If most of the things have been decided upon, a couple can appear at court and suggested a settlement agreed upon by the couple for the court to consider in its final judgment. Such uncontested cases can be short and relatively inexpensive.
However, oftentimes couples cannot agree so readily and a final trial and hearing must be held. These can become long and expensive and a judge makes the final choice on all contested issues.
Have questions? Take a look at some frequently asked questions about divorces in Florida.