Filing for divorce can be a contentious and stressful process, with lawyers on both sides arguing in courts and splintering families. But divorces can be conducted without attorneys if both parties can agree to the terms of the divorce. No matter the reason for the divorce, filing in Florida doesn’t have to be a complex process.
For many, the divorce process starts with filing a petition online. However, if you’re dealing with issues, including shared custody, alimony, or adultery, it’s worth it to research the specific documentation you’ll need and consider whether retaining legal counsel is the best step forward.
How to File for Divorce in Florida
Filing for divorce can be expensive, and many spouses ultimately wait years to file or spend a great deal of money trying to end their marriage. However, there’s a more straightforward and quick solution to avoid high divorce expenses, filing for divorce in Florida without a lawyer. When it comes to divorce, if you can reach an amicable agreement with your spouse, you might not need to hire a lawyer. If you and your soon-to-be-ex can settle disputes regarding asset division, childcare, alimony, and child support, you can qualify for an uncontested divorce or a simplified dissolution of marriage and represent yourself in court.
Meet Residency Requirements
Before filing, make sure that you meet all the divorce requirements in Florida. The first requirement to file for divorce in Florida is to maintain a residence in the state for at least six months. However, it’s not necessary for both parties to be residents of Florida. Instead, only the filing party needs to establish residency. If neither party meets this requirement, you must wait to file until you can demonstrate residency or file in the state where you currently reside. Even if you lived in Florida your whole life, you must also provide the court with the proof. According to State 62.052(2), which outlines Florida’s divorce requirements, you can prove residency by providing a valid ID card, voter registration card, or proof of filing taxes in the state. Go here for more information on the process and necessary documentation for establishing residency.
File a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The first document to file in a divorce case in Florida is the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, but that’s not the only form you’ll need to submit. In order to meet the requirements for an uncontested divorce in Florida, you must be in complete agreement concerning child custody and support, visitation, alimony, and property division. Depending on your case and if there are children involved, you may need to fill out some of these common documents before filing for divorce: Summons, Financial Affidavit, Family Court Cover Sheet, Marital Settlement Agreement, Notice of Social Security Number, and Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure. Note that there may be other mandatory forms you’ll need to submit depending on your family structure and financial situation.
Finding and filling out divorce papers in Florida is time-consuming, so give yourself lots of time to thoroughly review and submit documents. If you’re worried about making mistakes or leaving out certain forms accidentally, you don’t need to hire a lawyer, as there are other reliable and legal online services that can fill out case-specific documents in a prompt manner.
Sign and Submit the Petition
After completing all relevant Florida divorce forms, you’ll need to print them out and have them signed in front of a notary, along with a few other documents that require notarization. You can print and get your paperwork notarized at your local post office, UPS, or FedEx for a reasonable rate. Afterward, make copies of the paperwork and file them along with the originals with the circuit court in the county where you live or last resided with your ex. Once you pay the filing fee, the clerk of courts will stamp the documents and give you back the copies, keeping the original for the court.
Provide a Copy of Petition to your Spouse
If you want to file for divorce in Florida, this step is a requirement. As soon as you file for divorce, you must notify your ex that the process for the dissolution of the marriage has begun. In Florida, you cannot complete the service independently and must hire someone to serve your ex with divorce papers. A process server or local sheriff can provide this service, and the fees will vary depending on the county. After the service is complete, your spouse will have a 20-day limit to submit the signed and notarized Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of Final Judgement, as well as the Financial Affidavit, if it’s required, back to you. Once you receive the signed paperwork, you can file the forms with the county clerk.
Finalize Marital Settlement Agreement
The Marital Settlement Agreement is one of the most important documents for successfully filing for divorce in Florida. This details the specific agreements both parties reached regarding the dissolution of marriage. If you’re filing for divorce without an attorney, you’ll have to draft the Settlement Agreement.
If you decide to retain an attorney, they’ll walk you through the provisions and agreements you and your spouse have reached or help mediate with your ex’s attorney to reach an accord. Some of the necessary components to mention in a divorce settlement agreement are property division, legal and physical custody, child support, health insurance, retirement benefits, and life insurance policies. As with any paperwork filed with the court, the more information you provide, the less likely disputes are to arise post-divorce, and the sooner you’ll be granted a marriage dissolution.
Attend Divorce Hearing
If you’re in a contested divorce, you may go to trial or settle with a third-party present, but in uncontested divorces, a final hearing is one of the last steps. Once the date is set, you must provide your spouse with the Notice of Hearing. Arrive early with the rest of the paperwork you need to file, including a Final Disposition. The judge will review the settlement agreement, and this is the time you may be asked to prove residence. However, if you follow the proper court process and file all the necessary paperwork in due time, the hearing should be relatively brief.
Obtain a Final Decree of Divorce
The final step in a successful marriage dissolution is obtaining a Final Decree of Divorce, which contains the court’s final ruling and judgment order that makes the divorce official. Above all else, your divorce decree needs to be accurate and have specific language and contingencies to protect your legal interests. If your ex doesn’t comply with what’s outlined in the decree, you can take them back to court to enforce the terms. If it’s an uncontested divorce, the filing party must file and submit a Final Disposition form with the clerk. The Final Disposition Form states that the case is settled and does not require a hearing or trial be held.
How Property is Divided in a Florida Divorce
Florida is considered an equitable division state, which usually means a judge will order that the property be split 50/50. Marital assets and debts include everything the couple acquired, both individually and together, during the marriage, such as retirement benefits. Property is considered separate or nonmarital if a spouse owned it before marriage or acquired it as a gift or inheritance, such as assets that the couple defined in a prenuptial agreement.
Florida Divorce FAQs
Filing for divorce can be a confusing process, and there’s a lot of information to wade through as you begin. Knowing the basics in terms of cost and potential hurdles can help make the process smoother and less stressful. An experienced attorney can be a good advocate, but filing on your own can save you time and money.
How much does it cost to file for divorce in Florida?
The exact cost is hard to calculate with precision because it depends on many factors. However, the average cost to file for divorce in Florida is $13,500, including $11,600 in attorney’s fees. The average hourly rate for attorneys in Florida is $295. For couples who work together to dissolve their marriage, the divorce cost will be significantly lower. The average cost of an uncontested divorce is between $500 and $5,000, depending on if you file the paperwork yourself, enlist online help for filing, or if a lawyer takes care of everything.
Does infidelity impact the amount of a divorce settlement
Florida is one of many states that has removed fault as necessary grounds for divorce, which means that either party can seek a divorce without providing any reason beyond that they don’t want to be married anymore. The filing spouse only needs to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” However, if one spouse commits adultery, it can affect other elements of the divorce. Adultery is a crime in Florida, so the state can prosecute the person if their spouse catches and reports them.
It is likely that a proven affair will impact property division and alimony. A judge can reduce the adulterer's share of the couple's property if they determine their spouse intentionally wasted marital assets on an affair. This can be, for example, taking trips or dining out. You will need to provide tangible evidence, such as text messages or receipts, to show that that affair impacted your marital assets.
How long does a divorce take in Florida?
Florida has a minimum 20-day waiting period between filing and finalizing a divorce. Some uncontested divorces are resolved as quickly as four weeks, while others can take six months or more. The divorce will last as long as necessary for the couple to reach an agreement on the core divorce issues. Contested divorces can last anywhere from 9 months to three years.
Can you file for a divorce online in Florida?
Yes, you can file for divorce online in Florida. The Florida court system has an e-filing portal where Floridians can file their divorce papers online without having to go to family law court. Those who wish to file online must meet the same residency and “irretrievably broken” marriage requirements. However, Florida law requires couples with children to take a mandatory four-hour parent course before filing for divorce. The course educates parents on the responsibilities to their children during the divorce process.
How long after a divorce can you remarry in Florida?
There’s no waiting period after a Florida divorce before you can remarry. As long as you have the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, you can remarry when you wish.
Can I get divorced without my spouse present in Florida?
Yes, as long as the filing party meets Florida’s residency requirements, you can file for divorce even if your spouse is out-of-state.
Can I get a divorce while pregnant in Florida?
Couples may file for divorce even if one person is pregnant. However, the divorce will not be finalized until after the birth of the baby, when a paternity test will likely be given in order to make custody and support determinations. The pregnancy will need to be included in the petition, and establishing child custody in advance will make the divorce simpler post-birth.
Are Florida divorce records public?
In Florida, divorce records are public documents and are available to the general population. A person need only request another party’s divorce records from a court clerk in the county where the divorce occurred.
Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Florida
There’s no shortage of third-party legal aid that can file your paperwork quickly and effectively, and you can easily search online to find a legal expert who can answer your questions and get the divorce process started. Compiling the necessary documentation is easy since Florida offers the forms online, and there are many local and statewide resources to help you, including support for victims of intimate partner violence.
Florida State Court Paperwork
Once both sides have agreed to the divorce, you can file the paperwork. The Florida State Courts have all the forms available online, which can be accessed virtually or in person. Be advised that once the forms have been entered into the court, they cannot be changed. Enlisting the help of a paralegal for assistance in completing the paperwork is a cost-effective option for those who want to avoid the high cost of attorney fees.
Find a Notary
To search the Notaries Public database to find commissioned notaries to help you finalize your documentation, you can go here.
Domestic Violence Support
If your partner is abusive and you’re looking for a safe haven while you go through the divorce, WomensLaw.org has a host of resources to help. Whether you need emotional support, help making a plan to stay safe, or need an advocate to accompany you to the court or police station, there are local programs that provide shelter for domestic violence victims. Many shelters offer legal assistance and representation for domestic abuse survivors. They also have a map of police stations and courthouse locations if safety is a top priority.
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