Divorce can be quite a difficult ordeal, depending on the circumstances. Some couples go through a rough divorce process that involves lots of court hearings, lawyer expenditures, stressful encounters, and so on. However, it does not always have to be this way.
Spouses who can resolve their differences can proceed with an uncontested divorce. This option is often less stressful and does not necessarily require the involvement of an attorney. Thus, spouses can handle their divorce themselves, called a DIY divorce.
Let’s find out how do-it-yourself divorce works in Florida and what the requirements are to use this option.
How To Do It Yourself: Uncontested Divorce
A DIY divorce starts with talking to the other spouse. Both partners should sit down and discuss their divorce to understand how they see the process. It is crucial to sort out spousal support, child custody, child support, property division, etc.
After getting on the same page and agreeing on all the terms, it is possible to begin preparation for an uncontested divorce without a lawyer’s involvement. First, however, spouses should meet prerequisites for a divorce in Florida.
According to state law, at least one of the spouses needs to meet residency requirements.
Florida family law dictates one or both partners must have resided within the state for at least six months prior to filing. It is also required to prove that residency to the court.
It is possible to establish residency by proving two things:
- Actual physical presence in the state;
- An intention to make Florida one’s place of primary residence.
Filing Your DIY Divorce Forms For Free
The divorce process begins after one partner, also known as the petitioner, files the divorce papers. It is possible to download the basic set of divorce forms from the Florida Courts Self-Help Center. However, if spouses want to fill them out themselves, they should be prepared that it can take much time, as partners first need to learn legal terminology.
Another option is to use online divorce tools. These instruments help spouses select and complete all the necessary paperwork independently, without a legal background.
After properly filling out all the required forms, the petitioner can bring them to the circuit court clerk’s office for filing. However, it is not a free procedure. Filing fees vary depending on the county, but they are usually around $400.
It is possible to request a waiver to avoid paying filing fees. It can be achieved by providing solid proof that the petitioner’s financial situation does not allow them to make the payment.
Serving Divorce Papers To Your Spouse
Before filing the papers, the petitioner should make extra copies of the documents. One copy will stay with the court, one stays with the plaintiff, and another is served to the other spouse, also known as the defendant.
While the petitioner can’t serve the papers personally under Florida law, there are other ways to complete the procedure:
- Hire a local sheriff to deliver and serve documents;
- Hire a private process server to do the job.
If it is impossible to locate the defendant, the petitioner can proceed with a “Divorce by Publication.”
Temporary court orders can be requested after the initial filing process. They are applied to things such as visitation schedules, child custody, etc.
Both spouses have to prepare and provide information regarding their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses to the court during the filing phase. If the appropriate Family Law Financial Affidavit was not included when filing and serving the petition, the petitioner has 45 days to complete and file it.
There are additional documents that need to be provided along with the affidavit:
- Proof of debts;
- Income statements;
- List of assets;
- Bank statements;
- Tax returns;
- Additional papers required by the court.
Mediation is an effective way to resolve disputes that might arise when dealing with child support, custody, etc.
A mediator is an expert with a legal background serving as a neutral party during dispute resolution. This person does not interfere with the discussion but rather listens to both sides and provides guidance. Mediation can take as long as required until spouses reach an agreement.
As for the cost of mediation, it can vary greatly depending on whether a couple employs a private mediator or uses the services provided by the court:
- The cost of private mediation can vary from $3,000 to $8,000, depending on the mediator’s professional background and the complexity of the disputes;
- The cost of court-provided mediation depends on the couple’s annual income and can cost between $60 and $120 per hour.
Online Do-It-Yourself Divorce
Most people would assume that online divorce means that a couple can go through the ordeal with a laptop from home. However, that is not the case. Online divorce assists with filling out the divorce forms.
This option is great for spouses who want to go through their divorce without an attorney and are ready to separate peacefully. Preparation of the documents is often the most challenging part, even in an uncontested DIY divorce, and an online divorce company can make it easier.
There are lots of benefits to enjoy when hiring an online divorce company:
- Independence from an attorney;
- Comfortable pace;
- Fast preparation in just two business days;
- Affordable price.