Florida refers to divorce as a dissolution of marriage. The timeline and the ultimate resolution of your marriage dissolution can depend on your spouse’s response and any disagreements on the terms of your divorce.
There are a number of issues you will need to address when filing for divorce, such as how you wish to divide your property or financial assets and creating a parenting plan or determining custody and child support.
Filing for divorce may seem like an intimidating prospect, but educating yourself on the basics of Florida divorce law and finding a reputable lawyer to guide you through it can help put your mind at ease during this stressful time.
Florida operates on a “no fault” divorce system that only requires you or your spouse to claim an irretrievable breakdown in your marriage. This means you do not need to prove that your spouse did something bad or wrong for the court to grant your divorce. However, there are some other formal requirements you must meet when filing for a divorce.
To be eligible for a dissolution of marriage in Florida, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months before officially filing for divorce. Additionally, the state dictates that you or your spouse must file for divorce at the county circuit court located where either of you live. Although most counties generally follow the same process, the court clerk in which you wish to file can tell you if there are any additional requirements.
State law does not recognize legal separation and does not specify an amount of time you and your spouse must live apart before filing for divorce. However, once you file for divorce with the court, there is a 20-day waiting period before the court can officially grant your divorce.
The filing fee you must pay is controlled by the county court where you are filing. If you cannot afford this fee, then you may qualify for a fee waiver. Most counties require you to file an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status or a similar form with the court clerk to seek out a fee waiver.
If your divorce involves child custody issues or substantial monetary assets, you will likely want to hire a divorce attorney to advocate on your behalf and protect your rights during this process. The attorney can discuss their legal fees and any other costs with you before you make any decisions.
One of the quickest ways to divorce in Florida is a simplified dissolution of marriage. You might be eligible for this if:
The first step is completing a Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage and filing it in the clerk’s office in the county where either you or your spouse reside. The filing fee is determined by each county, but you may qualify for a fee waiver if you cannot afford it.
Once you and your spouse decide how to divide any property or debts, it needs to be put in writing through filing a Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. If you have not filed this form before your hearing, the judge can hear how you and your spouse wish to divide any property orally in court.
Soon after filing, a hearing is scheduled for a judge to review your petition and resolve any open issues. The divorce is finalized upon the judge handing down a final judgment.
The other type of divorce is a regular dissolution of marriage. You may need to file for this form of divorce if you and your spouse cannot agree on the terms of the marital settlement. Having children who are minors is another circumstance that might require a regular dissolution of marriage. Typically, this process takes longer than the methods outlined above.
Depending on your situation, you may need to complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children or a Petition for Marriage with Property but No Dependent or Minor Children. You must file your petition in the county where you or your spouse reside. Since these issues can be rather complex, many people seeking a regular divorce opt for hiring a divorce attorney from the start to help them complete the petition and take them through the entire process.
After the court clerk stamps your petition with the filing date, you need to serve your spouse with a copy of the petition. Florida law requires proper service of process to occur in person, by someone like a professional process server or a county sheriff.
No later than 45 days after filing your petition, you must give your spouse a signed financial affidavit. It must list assets like your income, tax returns, debts, debit or credit card statements, and any other financial assets you may have. If you or your spouse have an income of under $50,000, then you may use the short form financial affidavit. If either of you make $50,000 or more, then you must use the long form version.
If you and your spouse have minor children together, you are also responsible for filing the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. This addresses your parenting plan and child custody, child support, and addresses any time sharing or visitation with the children. State law also requires you and your spouse to attend a parenting class before a judge will finalize your divorce.
If both you and your spouse agree on the terms of your petition and other affidavits, then you may both sign a written marital separation agreement or state the agreement before a judge at your final hearing. Then a judge can issue a judgment and grant your petition for dissolution.
You may not be able to agree on some terms and need to have a judge hear the contested issues. Once the judge hands down their ruling and issues a judgment, your divorce will be final. Some counties may require you and your spouse to try mediation to resolve any issues before going forward with a trial.
If your spouse never responds to your petition at all, then the court operates on the assumption they have no issue with the terms and will proceed with the dissolution. This is referred to as a default judgment.
You may be able to seek out an annulment depending on your circumstances. An annulment has a similar legal effect as a divorce but contends that the marriage was prohibited to begin with and never legally valid. The typical grounds of annulment are:
While divorce may be common, when you go through it yourself, you still deserve dedicated, personal focus on your rights and unique situation. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you figure out the best way forward, explain the law, and represent you in court if it is ever necessary. Take the first step now and contact a local divorce attorney to discuss your divorce.