Divorce can be a rather complicated endeavor filled with complex procedures. That is why it is essential to know about the divorce specifics before going through it. Let’s find out how to file for divorce in the state of Florida.
Spouses must meet specific residency requirements to be eligible for a divorce in Florida.
As per family law, at least one of the partners must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing for a divorce. The fact of the residency must be proved to the court by:
- Providing evidence of one’s physical presence in the state;
- Confirming an intention to make the state of Florida one’s primary residence.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds for divorce are legal regulations created to specify the circumstances that have led to divorce. Each state has its own list of grounds that can serve as reasons for marriage dissolution.
There are two types of grounds for divorce:
- No-fault based
Florida is strictly a no-fault state. It means that the divorce process can be initiated by simply stating that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no chance of repairing it. However, this is not the only possible way to begin the dissolution of marriage.
Mental illness can work as the grounds for divorce in Florida as well. Still, there are some strict rules regarding such a serious allegation.
The filing side, also known as the petitioner, must provide evidence in court that their partner has been mentally ill for 3 years before the start of the divorce process. Moreover, the petitioner must send a notice of the divorce to the mentally incapacitated spouse’s closest relative.
The state of Florida does not recognize grounds beyond irretrievable breakdown and mental incapacity.
The typical list of fault-based grounds for divorce in most states includes:
- Habitual drunkenness or other additions
- Voluntary desertion
- Cruelty toward partner and/or children
Florida is a no-fault state, meaning that these grounds are not recognized. However, if the petitioner provides solid evidence regarding such at-fault reasons as cruelty or adultery, the judge can consider them when deciding child custody or property division in a contested case.
How to File an Uncontested Divorce in Florida
An uncontested divorce means that both parties have resolved their differences. A case is uncontested if the following requirements are met:
- Both spouses agree on the divorce method;
- At least one of the spouses meets residency requirements;
- Spouses reach an agreement regarding the distribution of assets and debts and child-related issues;
- Partners agree that their marriage is broken beyond repair.
To begin, a petitioner must fill out the required divorce papers. The basic document package aims to provide the court with relevant information regarding grounds for divorce and conditions established by the partners.
Here is a list of forms for an uncontested divorce:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (depending on the case):
Petition with Property
Petition without Property
- Financial Affidavit
- Marital Settlement Agreement
- Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of a Final Judgment
- Notice of Social Security Number
- Petition for Support
The list of papers for couples with children is different:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children
- Family Law Financial Affidavit (Short Form)
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Affidavit
- Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children
- Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
- Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage
- Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children
- Petition for Support and Parenting Plan Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children
After filling out the forms, they can be filed with the local circuit court clerk.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
Florida allows for a simplified dissolution procedure. This option is applicable for couples who have no children and agree that their marriage can’t be saved.
There is a list of other requirements for a simplified procedure:
- Spouses have worked out the division of property and liabilities while accepting the loss of property if one of the partners does not go through with the agreement;
- Neither partner wants alimony;
- They are willing to give up their rights to trial and appeal;
- Both spouses are willing to voluntarily go to the circuit clerk’s office to sign the petition (it is not necessary to sign it together);
- Both partners are willing to voluntarily attend the final hearing together.
The state of Florida has been working on creating an e-filing platform to connect users within the court system. The process began back in 2008 with the legislature mandating electronic filing. The Supreme Court’s set of standards was approved in 2009. Finally, the Supreme Court approved the option of e-filing for divorce in the state.
E-filing portal has several benefits for partners who want to simplify their divorce:
- The platform is available 24/7, meaning that it is possible to access it at any time;
- It allows users to file their cases without having to go to the court;
- The portal makes the filing process less costly by allowing users to save money on postal and/or courier services. But it doesn’t void filing fees.
Do-it-yourself divorce in Florida is rather straightforward. It begins with a talk. Both partners should discuss their differences and settle things such as child custody, spousal support, etc.
After getting on the same page, the petitioner can begin the divorce process by filling out and filing the necessary forms with the local circuit clerk or using the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal.
All the divorce papers are available for free at the Florida Courts Self-Help Center, meaning that a DIY divorce is an option for couples who want to avoid paying divorce lawyers. However, filling out divorce forms completely independently can take much time and energy as spouses without legal backgrounds find it challenging to understand legal terms.
Without a Lawyer
An uncontested divorce allows partners to save a lot of money on attorneys, who charge an hourly rate that can ramp up the cost of divorce to $6,000-10,000 dollars.
However, going through a contested divorce without a lawyer can be tricky. In this case, spouses need a professional who knows all the ins and outs of the divorce process and will protect their rights.
How to File a Contested Divorce
Divorce becomes contested and much more complicated if both parties can’t agree on important issues, including spousal support, property division, child custody, etc.
The first thing is to find a divorce attorney who will represent one’s interests in the court during a contested divorce. A professional lawyer is often a key to winning a case.
The next step is to file a divorce petition. The petitioner has to file for the divorce with the local county court and properly serve the papers to the respondent.
It is required to make several copies of the divorce documents. One batch of copies stays with the petitioner, another stays with the court, and the last is served to the responding party.
A contested divorce is accompanied by the “discovery process.” This step is important to both parties as the divorce should be as fair as possible. That is why divorce attorneys represent each spouse - to defend their interests and avoid unfair requests.
The next step in the contested divorce in Florida is mediation. State law requires both parties to attend mandatory mediation during the divorce proceedings. If spouses can’t reach an agreement during this stage of divorce, they move to the next step - court trial.
A contested divorce is often accompanied by numerous court appearances. If partners and their attorneys can’t find common ground, the judge takes matters into their hands and decides the terms of the marriage dissolution.
Filing the papers is not free in the state of Florida. Filing fees can vary depending on the county where the petitioner is proceeding with the divorce, but they are around $400.
However, the petitioner can request a waiver and file for free. To do it, they need to provide concrete evidence of financial inability to handle filing fees. It requires showing financial documentation to the circuit court clerk’s office.
Florida law prohibits personal service, and spouses should consider this during a contested divorce. Instead, a petitioner can go several ways:
- Hire a local sheriff to serve the papers to a petitioner;
- Hire a private process server to do the task;
- Have an attorney serve the papers.
If the defendant does not respond to the petitioner’s service within 20 days, the divorce process continues “by default.”
Most people have incorrect ideas about the concept of online divorce. It does not mean that spouses can go through the whole process via some website. Actually, online divorce is a service for preparing divorce documentation via the Internet.
This option is a great way to save lots of money on divorce attorneys for partners who can find common ground and apply for an uncontested divorce.
Preparation of divorce papers is often the most complicated part, even if spouses agree to end their marriage. In most cases, divorce attorneys charge an hourly rate, and their services for paperwork preparation can become quite expensive for the petitioner.
However, Online Florida Divorce changes everything. The petitioner can prepare documents from the comfort of home for an affordable price.
All it takes is going through an online questionnaire to provide details of the divorce. The petitioner receives ready-to-sign divorce papers and filing instructions in just two business days.
The platform is easy-to-use and straightforward. As a result, even people without a legal background can prepare their papers without any effort and without an attorney.