Want to figure out how to divorce in Florida? Not sure on the steps on filing for divorce? Before you file your own divorce, make sure you understand the legal process involved.
As one of the most stressful events in life, getting a divorce is tough! This already stressful event becomes even worse when there are children involved, property, or other items of contention. Not to mention all the confusing divorce requirements. You may be facing a series of questions without a notion on where to start: What about the children? What will happen to our home? Should I just sign the papers or speak to my own Tampa divorce attorney?
Right now, you should focus on the next best step for you and your family – starting with our comprehensive guide on how to get a divorce in Florida.
As an experienced divorce attorney, I created this article to guide you through to the steps of divorce in Florida and help you understand what to expect. Although we approach all divorces with a Settlement First Philosophy because it’s best for the children, our team has the trial and litigation experience to protect your interests and the integrity of your family.
Index for Quick Jump
The State of Florida uses the no-fault divorce process where you or your spouse are not required to prove any type of fault. Instead, you only need to show the marriage is irretrievable or your spouse has been mentally incapacitated for three years. Even so, the court often considers fault, such as cruel treatment or infidelity, when deciding other family law matters, including:
There are two different ways to file for a divorce in Florida: a simplified petition and a traditional petition for dissolution of marriage.
Getting a simple divorce in Florida isnt that hard. In a simplified dissolution of marriage or uncontested divorce, both parties are requesting the dissolution of the marriage, are in agreement, and are both referred to as the “petitioners.” These types of divorces are the most amicable means of ending the marriage and can possibly be handled without the assistance of an attorney. You and your spouse can only seek a simple dissolution of marriage if:
It’s vital to ensure all issues related to child custody and marital property are agreed upon. These issues should be settled in a signed divorce agreement or “marital settlement agreement”. With a simplified divorce, you and your spouse are essentially both willing to shake hands and walk away.
In a contested divorce, you and your spouse can’t or will not agree on the division of marital debt, marital property, and/or issues surrounding the children. Although most of our contested divorces start out with highly contentious items on the table, we are most often able to negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to reach an amicable agreement without a trial proceeding. This is called a divorce settlement, which presumes both parties are happy with the terms and can be assured of the end of litigation.
After the settlement has been reached, you and your spouse will have the agreement memorialized in a way that makes it enforceable and legally binding. In regular divorce proceedings, each spouse is privy to examine and cross-examine each other. All spouses have the ability to obtain documents regarding the other person’s expenses, income, debts, and assets before a settlement or trial through the mandatory process of discovery and disclosure. The forms for filing a regular dissolution of marriage include:
|Simplified Petition||Regular Petition|
The summons is the document the clerk signs to give the process server the ability to service your spouse, who is viewed as the defendant. Service refers to the act of giving a copy of the required papers to the other party through the procedures of the law. It’s required for all documents included in your case. In general, there are three different types of service:
In the process of filing for a divorce, Florida law requires you to file the following affidavits:
Florida divorce laws require both parties to complete a financial affidavit within 45 days of your petition being served — even if you and your spouse have no property. The financial affidavit will clearly disclose all assets and liabilities. To assist in the completion of this document, make sure to have:
You should also take an inventory of your family possessions and major household expenditures. A detailed household budget will help determine how much temporary support can be paid – if any. It will also provide a basis for the court to determine whether you or your spouse can realistically afford your marital home on your own.
Mandatory disclosure requires each party in a dissolution of marriage to turn over certain documentation with the financial affidavit. You and your spouse must provide these documents to each other within 45 days of serving the petition for dissolution of marriage. Use the Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure form (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/932.pdf) to swear that you have supplied the required mandatory documentation to your spouse.
Marital assets include any debts or assets amassed during the marriage. All assets and liabilities will be divided fairly or equitably upon divorce (equitable distribution). If you had assets before marriage, they’ll be considered “non-marital assets” — as long as they were kept separate from the marital property. Florida courts will consider you and your spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including care for your marital home and care for children, as well as economic circumstances.
In most instances, whether you or the other spouse wants to keep the marital home to live in with children from the marriage can a factor for an unequal distribution. If you file for a simplified dissolution of marriage, you will be required to have a marital settlement, which may include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, cash, real estate, cars, and anything else of value. As previously mentioned, the goal is for the property to be divided in an equitable way.
Depending on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, you will need one of the following forms:
Florida alimony is the extension of the marital obligation of spousal support after the divorce. According to Florida’s divorce laws, a court can order alimony if it is “well-founded.” The key factors used to determine alimony in Florida include:
If at all possible, it’s best for you and your spouse to decide on child custody in an amicable way. If these negotiations break down, the court will decide based on what is in the “best interest” of the child(ren). In either case, the relationship is determined by a parenting plan submitted by you and your spouse and approved by Florida’s family law court. The parenting plan forms may include:
The court will typically grant shared responsibility – unless there is a reason to believe your child’s upbringing would be in detriment. In some instances, the court will grant responsibility to one parent over certain aspects of the child’s welfare, such as education, primary residents, or medical care. The courts will also consider:
If your child custody case includes issues concerning the paternity of a child, you will need to use the Petition to Determine Paternity and for Related Relief(http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/983a.pdf) among other forms.
Going through a divorce with children is extra tough. In the Florida, the court can order a parent or a party to pay child support based on the child support guidelines (http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.13.html). Florida has a standard needs table (http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/61.30) that provides general child support amounts based on the parent’s income and the child’s age. Florida courts can also set aside separate or joint assets of parents in a fund or trust for the future support and/or education of the child.
If ordered, child support payments will continue until the child’s 18th birthday or at the point when parties agree otherwise. Most Florida child support attorneys use a specific formula based on the net incomes of the involved parties with considerations to the following statutory deductions:
If your divorce or child support case has special circumstances – such as a child or children with special needs, – either party can use the Motion to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines (http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/943.pdf)
It’s also important to consider how your divorce will change your tax situation. For instance, taxability of alimony payments, property transfers, and children dependency deductions may have an impact on your tax filing status. As a result, it’s usually a good practice to incorporate your accountant and/or a qualified estate planning attorney to help you avoid making costly mistakes you may not be able to rectify after your divorce paperwork is finalized.
Once your forms are complete, you should give the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage as well as all other supporting forms and documentation to the circuit court where you live. You will be required to have your petition notarized before it’s filed in the court. However, the majority of courthouses do offer a notary public and will notarize your documents for a fee. Divorce filing fees are determined by the Florida Statutes. A simple divorce filing fee in Florida is $408.00 plus a $10.00 summons fee.
You are required to give your spouse a copy of the filed petition for dissolution of marriage. This process is called “serving” the petition. There are several ways this is achieved:
The divorce hearing is when you and your spouse appear before the judge or mediator after filing for a divorce. Unless you and your spouse agree on everything, the judge typically doesn’t make rulings at this hearing. Instead, the judge may use it for basic scheduling and explain the family court proceedings.
In Florida divorces, the final judgment is the document that officially marks the end of your marriage. Also known as the final order of divorce or divorce decree, this document contains all of the various terms of the divorce, including:
The final part of a Florida divorce is for the judge to sign off on it by the way of a final divorce decree.
If you and your spouse are unable to reach a divorce settlement agreement – which is typically seen in abusive or toxic situations – a final decree will be signed by the judge that determines the disposition of issues surrounding the children and assets. The judge will decide the disputed issues based on the evidence presented in court. Once rendered, the final decree typically resolves all outstanding matters and grants the divorce effective the day the decree is signed.
Just because you and your spouse reach a divorce settlement through your uncontested divorce or mediation doesn’t mean you are divorced. Even in this case, a judge must sign off and issue a final judgment decree. However, the judge will incorporate your settlement agreement into your divorce decree through a consent order. by being referenced in the decree. Typically, the divorce decree will state the divorce settlement agreement is attached as an exhibit or will reference both parties have reached a settlement that has been filed with the court.
We created How to File for Divorce in Florida [2017 Checklist] to provide you with a straightforward overview of the process. As an experienced Florida divorce attorney, I have found one of the biggest hurdles is is my client’s expectations and understanding of the process. By providing a guide on how to get a divorce in Florida, you will have a better understanding of what the process entails and what to expect.
Considering the various forms and documentation, filing for a divorce in Florida can be overwhelming. While a simplified dissolution of marriage or an uncontested divorce may be relatively straightforward, most divorces revolve around highly contentious items that make the most amicable scenario a far and distant fantasy. In either case, the family law attorneys at Denmon|Pearlman will walk you through the process, protect your rights, and work to ensure you receive a fair and equitable divorce settlement.
We hope you enjoyed the How to File for Divorce in Florida [2017 Checklist] and found the post insightful. If you did, share it on social media. We would love to hear your feedback.
Are you looking to learn more about how to file for a divorce in Florida? Fill out your Florida Divorce Forms and Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
***INSERT FAQ TABLE FROM *****