Emotional difficulty and stress are practically unavoidable when people are getting a divorce. Dealing with your feelings and deciding what to do with property, any debt, and financial assets is really tough, and when children are involved, it gets even more challenging.
Understanding how to file for divorce in Florida will help to relieve some of that emotional difficulty and stress. This knowledge is invaluable as you move through the process — and sets the stage for your future life.
Steps to Filing for a Divorce in Florida
1. Preparing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
There are two types of petitions. The one you file will depend on your circumstances. If you and your spouse agree on all the terms (Uncontested Divorce) and don’t have any children or adopted children under the age of eighteen, you can file a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. You can use this if:
- Either you or your spouse has resided in Florida for at least the last six months
- Alimony is not sought by either party
- You both agree to the division of all liabilities and assets, including property
- Neither party in the divorce is pregnant
If this is a Contested Divorce, a Regular Dissolution of Marriage petition will need to be filed. These types can be highly contentious, and the divorce parameters are typically negotiated, including financial assets, debt, property, child custody, and any alimony arrangements. All relevant documentation needs to be filed, including financial documents.
In Florida, the grounds for divorce are called no-fault grounds, which can either be listed as “The marriage between the parties is irretrievably broken” or “The Respondent is mentally incompetent.” These are the only two choices.
2. Preparing the Summons
In an Uncontested Divorce, both parties can go to the courthouse together. When the divorce is contested, a document called the “summons” is prepared and signed by the court clerk for it to be “served” to your spouse (the respondant).
There are three types of process servers: (1) personal service, (2) service by mail, email, or hand delivery, and (3) constructive service.
3. Preparing all Affidavits
Additional documentation is filed in step three.
- Social Security Affidavit. Discloses SS numbers to give the ability to subpoena any necessary financial and employment information for each party.
- Non-military / Military Affidavit. Requires the respondent to disclose whether or not they are in the military / armed forces.
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit. Needed whether or not the divorce is contested for any time-sharing, custody, or visitation matters.
- Florida Financial Affidavit. Must be completed within 45 days of the petition being served. All supportive financial documentation should include personal financial statements, tax returns, income statements, bank statements, credit card statements, a list of debts, lists of assets, and any other relevant financial information.
4. Getting a Settlement Agreement
The goal of the settlement agreement is for all marital assets to be distributed equitably in a Dissolution of Marriage. If you had assets before the marriage that were separate from the marital property, these should be separate and non-negotiable. Care for the home and care for children are considered contributions to the marriage.
Any alimony agreements will be determined by a variety of factors, including standard of living, length of the marriage, the age and physical condition of each spouse, contributions, and hindrances to earning capacity (such as emotional impairment).
Settlement agreements can get quite complicated, particularly regarding marital homes, alimony, and children. Negotiations can be challenging to get to an equitable arrangement — and take some time. Although divorces can be completed without a lawyer, it is not recommended.
5. Filing Divorce Papers
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and supporting documentation is filed in the Circuit Court where you live. The summons is then “served” to your spouse and the initial hearing date is set.
Florida Divorce Laws & Child Custody
A parenting plan prepared by you and your spouse must be submitted to Florida’s family law court. It is best, if possible, to make the decisions needed for the parenting plan amicably, including child custody. Florida’s legal terms are parental responsibility, parenting time, and visitation.
If necessary, the court will make the decisions with the best interests of the child(ren) in mind, as described by law.
As a general rule, responsibility for children is equitable, but one spouse will be granted certain responsibilities for aspects of the child’s welfare, including education and medical care. If care from one of the spouses would be considered detrimental to the child(ren), the judge may rule differently. Factors in this decision-making include the ability to provide for the child, moral fitness, and the child’s preferences (if applicable).
Under Florida divorce laws, if there is child support in a divorce agreement, the payments would need to be made until the child reaches eighteen years of age or at a point the two parties agree otherwise. The main factors under Florida Statute that determine payment include the net incomes of both parties, cost of health insurance and health care, cost of child care, and the number of overnight stays the child(ren) has with each parent.
Benefits of Hiring A Divorce Lawyer
With your own divorce lawyer, you will have a legal team to advocate on your behalf and ensure all documentation is filed correctly and in a timely fashion. They also take the lead on communications during this emotional and stressful time.
They are tough negotiators, ensuring your rights to a fair settlement are well represented, which is important for your financial future.
They understand the complexities of family law and work diligently on your behalf to get a fair agreement when there are children involved.
During one of the most stressful and consequential times of life, hiring a divorce lawyer impacts your life and your future.on Sep 5, 2022