The Divorce Process in Florida
There are two primary processes of divorce in Florida. One is filing for a divorce with an attorney, and the second is filing for a divorce without an attorney. Both processes have their similarities, but the price of each can vary greatly. Before starting the divorce process you must first meet the residency requirements for the state and decide on the grounds for your divorce.
Florida Residence Requirements
For both processes, the Florida residency requirements are the same. To be eligible to file for the dissolution of marriage in Florida, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months. In contrast, if your spouse is not a resident of Florida then you may be able to file the case in the court of the state where your spouse lives. This may give you the option to choose the state that has the more favorable terms related to your situation (lower filings fees, shorter wait time, better child support laws, etc.).
Grounds for Divorce in Florida
When you file for a divorce, the petitioner must state the reason for the request. There are only two grounds for divorce in Florida:
- The marriage among both parties is irretrievably broken
- Mentally incapacity of one of the parties.
If you meet the residency requirements and have determined the grounds for the dissolution of your marriage in Florida, you can move forward with your divorce, with or without an attorney, following the steps listed below.
Step-1: Preparing Florida Divorce Forms
A dissolution of marriage in Florida begins by filing a petition. As mentioned above, for this purpose, the Florida residence requirements must be met and a ground for the divorce must be stated. The forms can be obtained online from the Florida Courts website. The website also has a resource page that describes the overview of the divorce process. In addition, the state of Florida has Family Law Self-Help Centers available to offer divorce forms and information on how to complete the forms. The initial form is called “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” In that form, two sections are available–one is for the petitioner who is seeking the divorce, and the other section for the “respondent.” A completion of a petition and summons is mandatory. Other forms will vary depending on the circumstances of your case.
Depending on if your case is contested or uncontested, the divorce forms can be completed with the help of an attorney, on your own, or with the help of an online divorce service. For contested cases it is always recommended to hire an attorney. For uncontested cases, using an attorney is the most expensive option, while doing the forms entirely on your own is the cheapest. Online divorce offers a nice compromise for couples involved in an uncontested case who want to save money, but don’t want the hassle of doing the forms on their own. Online divorce consists of four main steps:
- Fill our questionnaire so the site can determine which divorce documents are required for your case. The site will have your documents completed in as little as 2 days or less.
- If you received your documents electronically (via email), print them; some couples request to have the documents mailed. Then sign the documents in the presence of a notary.
- File the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage along with the other documents required by Florida court.
- The judge will review your case, and if there are no issues, they will sign the divorce decree finalizing your divorce.
Keep in mind that forms may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. For instance, if you have children. When using the services of an attorney, the more forms that are needed the more your divorce may cost.
Step-2: Filling Forms Carefully
It is important to make two copies of each form before filing. When signing the paperwork, the event needs to be documented by a notary. Some court-houses have notary public services for an additional fee. All courts will charge a filing fee at the time the petition is filed. This fee is mandatory, except in special circumstances of financial hardship. Petitioners that cannot afford the fee can file a service of fee waiver request to ask that the court waive the fee based on financial conditions. After the submission, the court will stamp each copy with the date and case number.
The original documents stay with the court. One copy will be for your records, and the second copy will need to go to your spouse.
Step-3: Serving your spouse
After your petition and accompanying documents are filed, under the family court jurisdiction dissolution of marriage, the respondent (non-petitioning spouse) must be served with a copy of the petition. They will then have 20 days to file their answer to the petition. In an uncontested divorce where the spouses have already agreed on all the terms of their divorce, this is just a formality and can be handled very easily.
When serving your spouse with their copy of the petition, the court requires proof of service. You are not allowed to serve your spouse yourself. The most common methods used are a professional server or the county sheriff.
Step-4: Financial Conditions
Several financial activities need to be followed during this divorce process. Each party will be required to submit a financial affidavit. This is a sworn statement of your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. Generally, there are two types of affidavits that need to be attached to the petitions.
- A signed Financial Affidavit
- A blank Financial Affidavit
Petitioners are given 45 days to provide relevant information along with the signed and blank financial affidavits.
Along with the affidavit, the petitioner and respondent will need to provide supporting documentation including:
- An income statement
- A list of all assets
- A list of all debts
- Tax information
- Bank details (bank statements)
- Insurance details
- Credit/Debit card statements
- Any other documentation that contains financial information.
It is important for both parties to provide accurate documentation with financial disclosures. If the petitioner or respondent fails to disclose any important financial details, they could face a penalty or a court fine.
Step-5: Family Court Procedures for Final Decree
Every uncontested divorce case in Florida ends with a final hearing. This is when you will have to appear in front of a judge to go over your case underoath. The judge will review your paperwork and your settlement agreement and ask you a series of questions to verify the information. If you have children, the judge will confirm that you have completed the mandatory parenting class.
If the judge is satisfied with all of the information provided, they will approve the divorce and sign the Final Decree, officially ending your marriage. A certified copy of the decree will be filed with the court and issued to each party to keep for their records to avoid any future issues.