In Florida, the technical name for divorce is "dissolution of marriage." Residents of that state have two options: file a normal dissolution or resort to the simplified version. However, this last option is only available to couples who do not have children. Before filing for divorce, you need to meet several requirements.
Part 1 of 4: Meet the requirements
Step 1. Make sure the marriage is irretrievably broken
The state of Florida no longer requires a faulty ground for divorce. Instead, both parties must affirm that the marriage has been irretrievably broken.
Faults can be assessed later, when determining spousal support, equitable division of the couple's assets, and custody of children
Step 2. Meet the residency requirements
In order to get a divorce in Florida, one of the parties must have been a resident of that state for the past six months.
Step 3. Take classes online
Couples with children must take an online course before filing for divorce. Sometimes children also have to meet this requirement and take classes specially designed for them.
- A recommended Parental Involvement in Education and Family Stabilization course costs $ 19.95. You will have to pay a fee to take the classes.
- To get a simplified divorce process, you will not have to take these classes, since a requirement to opt for this procedure is not having children in common.
- Contact the clerk of the court to inquire about specific county-approved courses.
Part 2 of 4: Preparing for Divorce
Step 1. Consider hiring an attorney
A divorce is a very stressful experience, and an experienced family law professional can help you get through the situation better by handling all the necessary paperwork to file the lawsuit. To find a reputable and specialized attorney, you can go to the Florida Bar website to access the referral service. Please note that the page is available in English.
- Florida attorneys may have a specialization certification in family and marriage law. Go to each professional's website to find out if they have a specialty certification.
- If you are concerned about facing professional fees, be aware that Florida courts are empowered to award attorney fees to one of the parties, especially when the spouses are in different financial situations. If you have far fewer financial resources than your spouse, you may be eligible for this benefit.
- The simplified divorce process is designed in such a way that it is not necessary to use a lawyer, although you can hire one if you wish. Since you don't have to have children together to opt for a streamlined process, you may only need to consult with an attorney if you have questions regarding the division of marital property.
Step 2. Come to an agreement regarding custody of the children
If possible, you and your spouse should meet and decide on this matter. The court may agree to a joint stipulation regarding custody, if it deems it to be in the best interests of the children.
In the absence of an agreement, the court will have to hold a trial. This is usually time consuming, expensive, and stressful. In addition, people's positions tend to become increasingly rigid through trial, making it difficult to work with the other parent after completing the course and granting custody
Step 3. Write a marriage resolution agreement
Before filing for a “simplified divorce,” you will need to reach a marriage resolution agreement. Marital property includes real property, vehicles, retirement benefits, stocks, bonds, cash, bank accounts, and anything else of value.
- The division of assets must be "equitable." This means that all marital property must be distributed fairly, not necessarily equally. The court will decide whether the division is equitable by considering the length of the marriage, each spouse's contribution to the marriage, and financial circumstances.
- The Florida Supreme Court has an approved form for this purpose (available in English).
Part 3 of 4: Filing a Regular Dissolution of Marriage
Step 1. Find the appropriate court
You will need to file for divorce in the circuit court of the county where you lived as a married couple or in the county where either party currently resides.
Step 2. Write the petition for dissolution of marriage
To start the divorce proceedings, you will need to file a petition with the court. In this document, you will have to ask the court for divorce. Either spouse can do it.
The Florida Supreme Court has different divorce petition forms: divorce without children or property, divorce with property and without children, or divorce with children. Please note that these forms are available in English
Step 3. Complete the additional forms
You will also need to complete a witness affidavit, a marriage resolution agreement, a social security number notification, a family wealth affidavit, and a mandatory disclosure certificate of compliance.
- If you have children or your wife is pregnant, you will need to submit the following forms: Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit, Child Support Guidelines Worksheet, and Parental Plan.
- These forms are available on the Florida Courts website.
Step 4. File the petition
You or your attorney will need to file the petition and any supporting documents with the court clerk. You will also have to pay a fee that varies depending on the court.
- For example, the value of the fee in Hillsborough County is $ 408.
- If you cannot afford the fee, obtain an application for indigence marital status determination through the clerk of the court.
Step 5. Notify your spouse
You will need to notify your spouse of your marriage dissolution petition so that they can respond to it within 20 days. The most common service methods for service are custom service and edict service. It is not possible to inform the other party by mail or hand delivery.
- If you know where your spouse is, give them the documents personally. Please note that you will need to complete a subpoena and a service provision memorandum (available in English). You will have to have the residential and work address of your spouse.
- Next, you will need to ask the clerk to help you schedule the delivery with a bailiff. If your spouse lives in the same county where the court is located, you can have the Police Department handle the service. Please note that you will only have to pay a fee by cashier's check or money order and include a stamped envelope. After serving the notice, the bailiff will provide you with proof of service.
- If your spouse lives in a different county, the clerk will forward the papers to a sheriff in that locality.
- Personalized service is generally recommended. The option to serve by edict (by publication) is only available if you cannot find your spouse or you live in another state. Contact the clerk, as your resources will be limited if you cannot serve your spouse personally.
Part 4 of 4: Using the Simplified Divorce Procedure
Step 1. Meet the prerequisites
To use the simplified divorce procedure, you will have to meet specific requirements. Otherwise, you will have to file for a regular divorce. The prerequisites are:
- You and your spouse must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- They cannot have minor or dependent children from marriage. The wife cannot be pregnant.
- You and your spouse should have agreed on how to divide marital property and financial obligations.
- Neither spouse should apply for spousal support.
- One of the parties must have been a Florida resident for the past six months.
- You have to be willing to give up your right to sue and file an appeal.
Step 2. Choose a divorce package
Go to the court's self-help center and buy a divorce kit that will have all the necessary forms. It usually has a value of $ 65.
- The self-help center has regular hours of operation (Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Contact the court for details.
- Carry a photo ID every time you approach the center.
- The forms are available free of charge on the internet (available in English).
Step 3. Complete the divorce forms
You can have someone at the self-help center review your forms, but they won't be able to fill them out for you.
After your review, make copies for yourself and your spouse
Step 4. Complete the simplified marriage resolution agreement
The Florida Supreme Court has an approved form in English to request a simplified divorce.
- This form includes all assets (and their value) that each spouse will receive, including cash, stocks, real property, vehicles, retirement plans, and life insurance benefits.
- Each party must sign this document in front of a notary public. While you do not need to sign it together, you can sign it in front of a clerk in court when filing the petition for dissolution of the marriage.
- This agreement does not allow transfer of title. If you need to transfer title to a property (such as land), you will need to get the deed.
- Similarly, the marriage settlement agreement does not change the name on marital debts (such as a mortgage).
Step 5. Give the divorce petition to the clerk of court
Both parties must go to the clerk's office to be able to present the process. Make sure you have a valid photo ID.
- Check with the clerk if you and your spouse should attend together. Miami-Dade County requires both parties to appear together to serve the petition. However, this is not a requirement in the Florida Supreme Court, so the requirements vary from county to county.
- Provide witnesses that can corroborate your residence. It is important that everyone carries a valid photo ID. Your witnesses must verify that at least one of the parties has lived in Florida for at least six months. They can present a notarial certificate, instead of appearing in person.
Step 6. Pay the filing fee
The cost of a simplified divorce can vary significantly from county to county, but is typically about $ 408. Contact in advance for accepted payment methods.
- Write the property division agreement fairly for both parties. At the end of the hearing, the judge will determine if it serves the interests of both before granting the divorce.
- Don't be corrective or greedy. If you make the divorce process more difficult, your spouse may be able to hire an attorney.
- If you have received assistance through a non-attorney, you will need to complete a disclosure form (available in English).