Dissolution of marriage, more commonly known as divorce, is a legal proceeding in which a married couple legally ends their marriage. The Florida divorce process can be relatively simple if the parties agree on all terms and there are no minor children involved, but it can also be quite complicated. While it's often a good idea to seek legal representation when getting a divorce, the following information is intended to get you up to speed on the process so you know what to expect.
Florida Divorce Process at a Glance
There's a reason why getting through law school and passing the bar exam is so tough -- the law is complicated. But since Florida law affects all residents of the Sunshine State, we've provided the following chart with plain English explanations of the law and resources to help you navigate the system like a pro.
Florida Statutes: Civil Practice and Procedure § 61.001, et seq.
Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce
You may get an uncontested divorce, called simplified dissolution of marriage in Florida, by meeting the following requirements:
- There are no children under 18 (including adopted children);
- Neither spouse is pregnant;
- At least one spouse has lived in Florida for 6 months;
- There are no disagreements over division of property and debts;
- Neither party is seeking spousal support (alimony); and
- Spouses both agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce
- Prepare and file a Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in the county clerk's office where you or your spouse live (you will have to pay filing fees).
- Even if you and your spouse have agreed on division of property and debts, this should be put in writing; you can also prepare, sign (both spouses), and file a Marital Settlement Agreement for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.
- Attend a hearing before the court, typically scheduled shortly after your petition is filed. If you haven't already filed a marital settlement agreement, the judge will hear your property and debt division agreement orally.
- If everything is in order, the judge will issue a final judgment and you will be divorced.
Florida Divorce: Court Forms & Documents
Note: This is just a partial list of documents you will need in order to file for divorce (see section above if you're filing for an uncontested divorce). Visit the Florida State Court System's Self-Help Center for a complete list.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Florida Divorce Process: Step-by-Step
Florida courts do not require parties to specify particular grounds for a divorce, although they will consider factors such as abandonment or spousal abuse when deciding property division, child custody, and visitation. Instructions for a simplified (uncontested) dissolution of marriage are in the table above. Some Florida counties require parties to try to resolve their dispute through mediation before proceeding to trial.
1. Prepare and File the Necessary Forms
You must file the appropriate dissolution of marriage forms in the county where you live, as long as both of you have lived there for at least six months. The initial document you will file is a petition for the dissolution of marriage (the spouse who files the petition is the "petitioner," while the person upon whom it is served is the "respondent"). The petition should address division of property and debts, alimony, and support and custody of any minor or dependent children.
Make sure your forms are notarized prior to filing them with the court clerk, who will give you a copy after they are stamped with the filing date. Make an additional copy to serve on your spouse.
2. Serve the Forms on Your Spouse
To "serve" a court petition is to simply share it with the other party, in this case your spouse. Your spouse or their attorney may accept service if they agree to the divorce (not the specific terms, which will be sorted out later). There are several options for serving the petition on your spouse, such as by the county sheriff, or through a professional process server (but they may not be mailed or left at their doorstep).
3. Provide Your Spouse With Financial Disclosures
Within 45 days after filing the initial petition, you are required to provide your spouse with a signed affidavit detailing your financial assets and liabilities. These records include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Other assets
- Tax returns
- Bank and credit card statements
4. File a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (if applicable)
If you have minor children, this should be completed and filed at or before your first child support hearing.
5. Settlement or Contested Final Hearing
If you and your spouse are able to agree on most of the terms of the divorce, you can both sign a written agreement reflecting these terms. Parties also can present their agreements to the judge in a final hearing if it is not yet formalized. However, a final hearing will be required for divorces where there are still disputes. The judge will decide the contested issues before issuing their final ruling on the divorce.
Research the Law
Florida Divorce Process: Related Resources
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Florida Divorce
Divorce law can be quite complicated, typically made even more difficult by the emotional challenges it presents. Whether you're on the panhandle or down in the Keys, hiring a legal professional can give you peace of mind and usually a better outcome. If you're getting divorced in Florida, consider contacting a local divorce attorney today.