Vanessa Tuttle is a Florida-licensed attorney. This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.
If you’re considering a divorce, you likely have many questions. Ultimately, the answers to your concerns often depend on what state you live in. For example, Florida is a “no-fault divorce” state, meaning that neither spouse can blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. The length of your marriage can also affect certain elements of the divorce, such as alimony.
Below, we answer the most common questions about divorce in Florida to help you begin this process with confidence.
What are the basic steps for filing for divorce in Florida?
The basic steps for filing for divorce in Florida are as follows:
1. Serving the petition
To begin the divorce process, one spouse needs to file the dissolution petition and supporting documents with the circuit court clerk. They must submit the following documents:
- Cover sheet for family court cases
- Petition for divorce
- Notice of social security number
- Family Law Financial Affidavit (see below)
- Other county-required docs
If you have children who are minors, you also need to submit:
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit
- Proposed parenting plan
You should file for divorce in the county where you and your spouse last lived together before you decided to end the marriage, where the children live or where you own marital property. (The proper venue may decide on several factors.) You can either deliver hard copies of the dissolution petition to the court or use the court’s electronic filing system. In the large majority of cases, you’ll need to pay a fee to file (filing fees in Florida currently range from $350 to $410, depending on the county).
The spouse who files for divorce is called the “petitioner” and has to serve the other spouse (the “respondent”) with the divorce papers. The divorce papers are hand-delivered to the respondent by a private process server. However, if you and your spouse have an amicable relationship and the divorce is uncontested, the respondent can simply sign and file an “Acceptance and Waiver of Service of Process”. This indicates that the respondent is aware of the divorce case and received the papers, so the papers don’t have to be officially served to them.
2. Answering the petition
The respondent has to respond after they’re served with divorce papers or after they sign the waiver detailed above. The respondent can do so by filing an “Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage”, which essentially indicates that the respondent agrees with everything in the divorce petition and doesn’t require any notice of future proceedings (other than receiving the final judgment of dissolution of marriage). This speeds up the Florida divorce process. However, it’s important to ensure there are no disagreements or areas of contention before moving forward with this option.
If the respondent hasn’t filed any type of answer within 20 days of receiving the divorce papers, there are consequences. Namely, the petitioner can file a “motion for default” requesting that the divorce in Florida go through without participation of the respondent.
3. Financial disclosures
Both spouses are required to file a Family Law Financial Affidavit as well as mandatory disclosures, which are financial documents that are required to be filed within 45 days of the date when the first petition was served.
4. Parental education
If the divorcing couple has children who are minors, both parents must complete a recognized Parent Education and Family Stabilization course before the divorce is finalized.
5. Final hearing
The final stage of the Florida divorce process is a hearing, which the petitioner can schedule with the judge’s judicial assistant. It’s important to meet all the judge’s requirements before attending this final hearing. The petitioner needs to attend the hearing and bring all required paperwork, evidence and witnesses for testimony. During the procedure, the judge will review the paperwork and sign the final divorce judgment if everything is in order.
What are the residency requirements to file for divorce in Florida?
Like many other states, there’s a residency requirement to file for divorce in Florida: At least one of the spouses filing for divorce must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months before filing. There are many ways to prove residency. You can provide a Florida driver’s license, ID, voter registration or an official affidavit from someone testifying that you have lived in the state for six months.
What are the grounds for divorce In Florida?
In the past, the requirements for filing for divorce in Florida included one party being at fault—a legally acceptable reason was generally something like adultery, abandonment or domestic violence. However, in 1971 Florida passed the Dissolution of Marriage Act, which enables a no-fault dissolution of marriage, or a divorce in which neither party is legally at fault. Instead, either party can state that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Can I get alimony? What factors will a judge consider?
Also known as spousal support, alimony is financial support that one spouse pays to another when one spouse is in financial need and the other has the ability to provide. Since it can substantially impact both spouses’ finances, it’s often one of the most contentious issues in a divorce.
In the Florida divorce process, the type and duration of alimony are determined on a case-by-case basis according to circumstances such as one spouse’s need and the other’s ability to pay. The duration of the marriage also plays an important role.
There are five different types of alimony in divorce in Florida:
- Temporary alimony: Awarded at some time during the Florida divorce process and has an end date.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony: Limited-time support that aims to help one spouse transition to life outside of marriage.
- Rehabilitative alimony: Similar to bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony is usually awarded for moderate-term support to cover a spouse’s basic needs while they look for a job, get job training or acquire an education that will open up job opportunities beyond their existing skills.
- Durational alimony: When a marriage is fairly short, a judge sometimes awards alimony for a limited amount of time that can’t be longer than the amount of time the couple was married.
- Permanent alimony: When this type of alimony is awarded, one spouse is required to pay the other spouse permanent alimony until one of them passes away or the receiving spouse remarries. It’s usually given only after the dissolution of a marriage of many years.
How is marital property divided in Florida?
Florida law requires an equitable division of marital property between spouses, which means that the distribution needs to be fair. In some cases, that means a 50/50 split. In other cases, a judge may decide that various factors require a different distribution.
Those factors generally include the length of the marriage, each party’s current financial circumstances and future earning potential, what each party contributed to the marriage and to acquiring income, any wrongful conduct by one of the parties (such as domestic violence) and any liabilities incurred by either spouse.
Some assets are also difficult to split down the middle—a jointly owned business, for example. A judge often awards these types of assets to one spouse, while compensating the other with an asset of similar value or funds to cover their half of the value of the first asset.
How is child custody decided in Florida?
Florida law doesn’t refer to the term “child custody”. Instead, it differentiates between legal custody (or decision-making authority, which is called “parental responsibility”) and physical custody (referred to as “time-sharing”).
If the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents, that’s referred to as “equal time-sharing”. If the child spends most of the time with one parent, that’s called “majority time-sharing”.
Florida state law assumes that it’s in the children’s best interest for both parents to share responsibilities. However, in circumstances where shared timesharing and responsibility may not be in the best interests of the child, a judge may give one parent full parental responsibility.
How long will it take to get a divorce in Florida?
The amount of time it takes to get a divorce in Florida depends on the circumstances and the type of divorce needed.
The fastest Florida divorce process is a “simplified dissolution procedure”. This isn’t the right option for every situation. If there are no children and both spouses agree on how to divide their marital assets and any joint debt, it can be the quickest way to finish the divorce proceedings. However, you both need to go to the clerk’s office to sign the petition, and you have to attend the final hearing together.
If the divorce is contested and you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, it generally takes much longer. A contested divorce requires a trial and generally involves several hearings before that trial. Therefore, contested divorces generally take between nine months and three years.
Filing for divorce without an attorney
An attorney is not required to file for divorce in Florida. This is called appearing “pro se”. However, if you and your spouse don’t agree on divorce terms, have a lot of assets and/or dependent children or there has been domestic violence, it’s a good idea to seek guidance from an attorney. Divorce law can be complicated, and mistakes—including ones with significant, long-term consequences—can’t always be corrected. If you’re concerned about the cost of divorce in Florida, consider an option like Marble. You only pay for the services you need, and for that flat fee, you get a lawyer plus an experienced team to answer questions, provide support and help you with every step of the divorce process.
The cheapest way to divorce in Florida
Some costs of divorce in Florida are unavoidable. For example, you have to pay a fee to file the divorce petition in court. The amount of the fee is determined by the county, but in most places, it’s currently around $400.
If you and your spouse have employment retirement accounts that need to be split, you may need to pay someone to prepare a special court order known as a “qualified domestic relations order” (QDRO). This usually costs several hundred dollars.
In addition, if you require a professional mediator to help you and your spouse reach an agreement, you can expect to pay several thousands of dollars for their services. This amount is generally split between the two spouses. Likewise, if you decide to hire an attorney to represent you in the divorce proceedings, those legal fees are part of the divorce in Florida cost.
Overall, mediation tends to be the cheapest route for divorce in Florida.
When to speak to a divorce attorney
It’s a good idea to consult with a divorce attorney if you’re considering a divorce. An initial consultation can help you select the right type of divorce for you and determine if and where you need additional legal support.