Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Florida Divorce: What to Expect

Deciding that you want a divorce can be painful and difficult. You'll begin the divorce process once you determine it's your best option. This can be daunting, especially if you've never been through the divorce process before.

You're probably wondering if you'll get custody and child support. You may fear that the judge won't order your spouse to pay you alimony (or spousal support.) This is a natural reaction to filing a petition for dissolution of marriage.

Here, we'll explain what you should expect once you proceed with your divorce petition. We'll explain what happens if you and your spouse can't agree on a parenting plan. We'll also discuss how your attorney will negotiate a division of your marital assets.

Basic Requirements for a Divorce in Florida

In Florida, there are only a few legal requirements for divorce. One of the parties must have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing. Once you meet the residency rule, you can file your petition for dissolution of marriage.

Unlike many other states, there is no formal waiting period in Florida. This means that you and your spouse don't need to prove that you separated before filing for divorce. Of course, it's easier to prove your marriage is irretrievably broken if you and your spouse aren't living together. While there is no waiting period to file a divorce, the court may not enter a final divorce decree until at least 20 days after filing. But, if the court determines that an injustice would result if a final decree doesn't get entered before the 20 days expire, it may do so.

Florida law only offers two grounds for divorce. One is by proving that your marriage is irretrievably broken. This means that you and your spouse cannot repair your marriage. The other is that the courts declared your spouse mentally incompetent at least three years before filing.

You Can Also File for an Annulment

In some cases, the courts will declare your marriage void or invalid. If this happens, you won't need to pursue a legal divorce. An annulment has the same legal effect as a divorce. Instead of ending the marriage, an annulment declares that your marriage was never valid.

Florida law doesn't cover annulments. But the Circuit Courts in Florida will grant them. These courts have set precedents for annulments that help identify the requirements. There are conditions you must meet to apply for an annulment.

First, you must file your petition for an annulment with the Circuit Court. Your petition must state whether you want the court to deem your marriage void or voidable. It must also state the reason the court should approve your request.

The bases for an annulment in Florida include the following:

  • Bigamy or incest
  • Fraud or coercion
  • Mental incapacitation
  • Fraud or misrepresentation
  • Underage without parental consent
  • One spouse is impotent, and the other didn't know
  • The parties got married as a joke

You can apply for an annulment if you can prove these conditions. The courts have little interest in forcing people to stay married. So, as long as both parties agree to the annulment and the case meets the conditions, the judge will likely grant it.

Will the Judge Grant Me Alimony?

One concern many people have when they file for divorce is whether they'll get alimony. In Florida, the courts call alimony as spousal support. There is never a guarantee that you'll get spousal support. Your Florida divorce lawyer must show you are legally entitled to receive it.

Florida has four types of alimony:

  • Temporary ("Bridge the Gap") — The judge may grant you temporary alimony until the divorce is final. These alimony payments end once the judge issues their final judgment for divorce. Payments may last up to two years.
  • Rehabilitative — This support helps the lower-earning spouse get the education and career advice necessary to become self-sufficient. The goal is for both spouses to enjoy the same standard of living they had while married. A judge may order payments for a period of up to five years.
  • Durational — This support has a finite end date. Usually, the judge will agree to whatever duration the parties agree upon. If the parties don't agree, the judge will consider several factors to determine the length of alimony. The judge may extend the time only based on "exceptional circumstances."
  • Permanent — Permanent alimony is no longer available in Florida. The order is still effective if a judge ordered permanent alimony before July 1, 2023. For divorces filed on July 1, 2023, or later, the court may order alimony for up to 75% of the length of a long-term marriage. A long-term marriage is 20 years or longer (calculated from the date of marriage to the date a party filed for divorce). Although judges can't order permanent alimony, durational alimony — plus an extension — may ensure the petitioner will get alimony for an extended period.

Generally, the length of the marriage will help determine whether you get spousal support. The judge will review both parties' financial affidavits to determine which party (if any) should get support.

Who Gets Custody of the Children?

Child custody is usually the most divisive issue during a divorce. It's rare for a judge to grant one parent sole custody. Joint legal custody is often ordered, allowing both parents to make major decisions about the child. For physical custody, usually, one parent will become the primary custodial parent, and the other will have visitation rights.

When determining child custody, the courts consider the children's best interests. For example, if you have three kids and you've been a stay-at-home mom for years, you'll probably maintain primary custody until they graduate. With older children, though, the court will consider their preferences in deciding which parent should have primary physical custody.

In most divorce cases, the judge looks to see which party had the most parental responsibility during the marriage. At your final hearing, the judge will explain why they decided custody the way they did.

Will My Spouse Have to Pay Child Support?

The parent who receives primary physical custody of the children will likely get child support from the other parent. The amount of child support depends on how many kids you have. This includes minor children and dependent children. It also depends on both parents' income.

In Florida, as in most other states, the judge determines child support using the state child support guidelines. The child support guidelines consider specific financial data, such as childcare costs and whether your children have special medical conditions.

Very rarely will the courts deviate from these guidelines. Of course, you and your spouse can agree on an amount.

But if the judge doesn't feel the amount will allow you to care for your minor children sufficiently, they may dictate how much your spouse must pay. If you want an idea of how much child support you'll get (or pay), your family law attorney can plug your information into the child support guidelines and calculate your probable support amount.

Usually, your attorney will ask the judge to order your spouse to make child support payments as soon as you file your divorce papers. This is true whether you file for a simplified dissolution of marriage (uncontested divorce) or a regular dissolution of marriage (contested divorce).

What Happens to Our Marital Property?

The division of property during a marriage can get messy. Usually, the attorneys have no problem coming to terms with the major marital assets. For example, arguing that you don't deserve half of a boat will be hard if you and your spouse have a boat. The same applies to the marital home or large savings/checking accounts.

It gets tricky with things like time-share properties, credit card debt, and personal property. Many spouses fight about who gets family photo albums. They also fight about things like pets and family heirlooms.

Another major issue with equitable distribution involves retirement accounts, investments, and other bank accounts. The judge will look to both parties' "Family Law Financial Affidavit" when deciding how to divide marital and non-marital assets.

When you complete your affidavit, the courts demand mandatory disclosure of all assets and other financial information. This includes all financial resources, liabilities, and income. You will also have to provide copies of your most recent tax returns.

The State of Florida is not a community property state. This means there is no guarantee that the judge will divide your marital property 50/50. They will consider the financial circumstances of both parties and divide property the best they see fit.

Can I Demand That My Spouse Pay My Attorney's Fee?

Many people assume that the judge will make their spouse pay their attorney fees. This only happens in extreme circumstances. Even if your attorney can show financial hardship, the judge will probably still hold each party responsible for their own attorney's fees.

For example, just because you spent much of the marriage homemaking doesn't mean the judge will grant your request for attorney's fees. It all depends on the facts of your case and the financial position of both parties.

Do I Need an Attorney to File for Divorce?

Technically, you don't need a Florida divorce attorney to help with your case. But even if you think you're familiar with Florida divorce laws, hiring an experienced divorce lawyer to represent you is a good idea.

Getting divorced in any state is difficult. The courts are challenging to navigate, and you have no idea how the judge will handle your divorce. It can be scary and intimidating. This is especially true if your spouse has a lawyer and you don't. The judge won't treat you with kid gloves simply because you don't have an attorney.

If you need help finding a local family law attorney, visit FindLaw's attorney directory.

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

The Florida courts are chock full of pending divorce cases. The judges do their best to process cases as quickly as possible. It can take months or years for your divorce to become final. Your spouse may file a counter-petition demanding more of your marital assets. Or it may take months to serve a copy of your petition. All sorts of things can hinder the divorce process.

The bottom line is you and your spouse will decide how long (or short) the legal process is. If you work together and agree on most divorce terms early, your attorney can quickly finalize your divorce. If you bicker over every piece of personal property, it can take quite some time.

This is why most people hire an attorney to handle their divorces. They can negotiate most of the terms with your spouse's divorce lawyer. This way, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse don't have to deal with this face to face.

How Can I Find an Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney?

If you want an attorney with the experience and patience to handle your divorce case properly, visit FindLaw's divorce attorney directory.


Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Divorces are tough and a lawyer can seek the best outcome
  • A lawyer can help protect your children's interests
  • Divorce lawyers can secure alimony, visitation rights, and property division

Get tailored divorce advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


 If you need an attorney, find one right now.

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options