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.
How To File For Divorce In Florida?
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:
- Child custody or parental responsibility
- Property division
- And alimony in limited circumstances
There are two different ways to file for divorce in Florida: a simplified petition and a traditional petition for dissolution of marriage.
Step 1 – Prepare The Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage
SIMPLIFIED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE (UNCONTESTED DIVORCE)
Getting a simple divorce in Florida isn’t 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:
- You both agree to use the simplified dissolution of marriage proceeding
- You have no children under the age of 18 or adopted children under the age of 18
- Neither you nor your spouse are pregnant
- Neither party is seeking alimony
- You and your spouse agree to the division of all assets and liabilities
- You or your spouse have lived in the State of Florida for the last six months
- Both parties agree the marriage is broken beyond repair (irretrievably broken)
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.
- Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/901a.pdf)
REGULAR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE (CONTESTED DIVORCE)
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:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/901b1.pdf)
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Dependent or Minor Children (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/901b2.pdf)
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with No Dependent or Minor Children or Property (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/901b3.pdf)
SIMPLIFIED PETITION VS REGULAR PETITION FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
|Simplified Petition||Regular Petition|
|Both you and your spouse go to courthouse together for the divorce.The only issues that need to be sorted is “stuff,” such as property. Child support, child custody, and alimony must not be issues in your divorce.Both parties must be in complete agreement as to how they will divide everything at the time they go to the courthouse.Can only be used in uncontested divorces.||One person “files paperwork”. The other party gets “served” or accepts service, and files an answer and divorce paperwork of their own. Can be used in both contested and uncontested cases.Filed via e-filing portal or at the clerk’s office, and includes:SummonsUCCJEA (if children)Non-military and Social Security AffidavitProposed Summons for the clerk|
Step 2 – Prepare The Summons For The Florida Court Clerk
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:
- Personal service
- Service by e-mail, mail, or hand delivery
- Constructive service
Step 3 – Prepare SS Affidavit, Non-Military/ Military Affidavit & UCCJEA Affidavits
In the process of filing for a divorce, Florida law requires you to file the following affidavits:
- Social Security Affidavit – This statute requires the disclosure of social security numbers, so each party has the ability to subpoena financial and employment records without unnecessary court intervention.
- Non-military / Military Affidavit – This affidavit explains whether the respondent is in the military or not. The party filing the Petition will also be required to file an affidavit testifying whether the respondent is a member of the armed forces.
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit – This form will be used in any case involving the custody, time-sharing, or visitation of any minor child(ren). You will be required to complete this affidavit even if the time-sharing, visitation, or custody of the minors are not in dispute.
Step 4 – Complete The Florida Financial Affidavit & Supporting Documentation
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:
- Income Statement
- Tax returns
- List of assets, such as real estate holdings
- List of debts
- Credit card statements
- Bank statements
- Personal financial statements
- Any other relevant financial documents the court or your spouse should know about prior to the divorce
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.
- Use the Family Law Financial Affidavit Short Form if you individual annual gross income is less than $50,000 (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/902b.pdf)
- Use the Family Law Financial Affidavit Long Form if your annual individual gross income is $50,000 or more (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/902c.pdf)
CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE WITH MANDATORY DISCLOSURE
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.
- I can’t get her to sign the agreement yet, but this is easy. Is this still uncontested? No. When we speak of “uncontested divorces”, we are traditionally talking about cases where nothing is at issue and everyone knows what the result it going to be.
- Costs for Filing? 408 dollars for clerk, although if no money can ask for a waiver.
Step 5 – Getting A Settlement Agreement In Place: Typical Contested Items To Consider In A Florida Divorce
MARITAL ASSETS LAWS IN FLORIDA
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:
- Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/902f1.pdf)
- Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Dependent or Minor Children (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/902f2.pdf)
- Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/902f3.pdf)
ALIMONY OR SPOUSAL SUPPORT LAWS IN FLORIDA
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:
- The length of the marriage and standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- Physical condition and age of each spouse
- Whether there are any emotional impairments that may hinder one’s earning capacity
- Whether one spouse will need career training or additional education to find a job to support themselves
- What contributions each spouse made to the marriage
DIVORCE LAWS ON CHILD CUSTODY
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:
- Parenting Plan (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/995a.pdf)
- Parenting Plans: Avoiding An Agonizing Custody Settlement
- Supervised/Safety-Focused Parenting Plan (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/995b.pdf)
- Relocation/Long Distance Parenting Plan (https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/995c.pdf)
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:
- You and your spouse’s moral fitness as parents
- The preferences of the child (if applicable)
- Your ability to provide for the child
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(https://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/983a.pdf) among other forms.
DIVORCE LAWS ON CHILD SUPPORT
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 (https://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 (https://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:
- Cost of health care
- Cost of health insurance
- Cost of childcare expenses
- The number of overnight stays the children spends with each parent
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 (https://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.
Step 6 – File The Divorce Forms & Have Them Served
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:
- Your spouse accepts the service and agrees, or their attorney or your spouse can accept service.
- Your local sheriff’s office can serve the divorce papers – if you and your spouse are not on good terms or if you are in fear.
- You can have a private process server deliver the papers. Check with your circuit court clerk’s office for a list of approved vendors.
- Does your spouse live in a separate county? If your spouse lives in a separate county, you will need to have a private process server or the sheriff’s office serve your spouse in their county.
- Are you unable to find your spouse? If you can’t find your spouse, you can still serve them through a public notice published in the local newspaper for 30 days called “constructive service.” You will be required to pay a fee to the newspaper for this service.
Step 7 – Set A Hearing In Front Of A Judge & Prepare A Final Judgement
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:
- A parenting plan that clearly spells out who the kids will live with
- A division of marital assets
- If child support is ordered
- Issues concerning the health care, education, and religious upbringing of the children
- Whether alimony payments are included
- And more
The final part of a Florida divorce is for the judge to sign off on it by the way of a final divorce decree.
WHAT IF WE CAN’T EXECUTE AN UNCONTESTED AGREEMENT?
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.
UNCONTESTED DIVORCE FINAL JUDGMENT DECREE
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.
Contact Denmon Pearlman For A Better Way To A Florida Divorce Assistance
We created How to File for Divorce in Florida 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 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 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 our How to File for Divorce in Florida guide. Contact Denmon Pearlman for legal advise specific to your case. We would love to help.