The Florida divorce process can be relatively simple if the parties agree on all terms and there are no minor children involved. However, parties do not agree on everything in many cases, and children are often involved, so the process can get complicated.
The following information provides an overview of the divorce process in Florida, from filing for divorce until the final decree is issued. It also addresses the common question of whether you need a lawyer to file for divorce. (Spoiler alert: You do not need a lawyer to file for divorce in Florida, though meeting with a lawyer is almost always recommended.)
Let's dive in.
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. To help the non-lawyer residents of the Sunshine State understand the divorce process, 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 a Simplified (Uncontested) Divorce
Florida has two types of divorce: a simplified dissolution of marriage, and a regular dissolution of marriage (see below). You may file for a simplified dissolution of marriage 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
- Both spouses agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.
How to File for a Simplified Divorce in Florida
- 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 unless you qualify for a fee waiver).
- 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.
How to File for Divorce in Florida With a Child
If your case involves a minor child, then you are not able to file for a simplified dissolution of marriage as described in the table above. Instead, you will have to file for a regular dissolution of marriage, even if your case is uncontested, meaning that you agree on everything. See the steps below.
Filing for Regular Dissolution of Marriage in Florida
The steps below explain the process you will take for a regular dissolution of marriage. This is also largely the process you would follow for a contested divorce even if you do not have children.
1. Prepare and File the Necessary Forms
You must file the appropriate dissolution of marriage forms in the county where one of you lives, as long as both of you have lived in the state of Florida 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.
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.
Make sure your forms are notarized before 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 let the other party, in this case your spouse, know about the proceeding. 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. Forms may not be mailed or left at your spouse's doorstep.
Make sure the proper steps are taken to serve your spouse so that it formally kicks off the divorce process.
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
If you or your spouse's income is $50,000 or more, you must file the long form Family Law Financial Affidavit. If neither of your incomes is above $50,000, then you can file the short form Family Law Financial Affidavit.
4. Complete and File Other Child-Related Forms and Courses
If you have a child support hearing, you must first complete and file the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.
Additionally, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit has to be completed and filed, even if you and your spouse agree on custody.
Finally, all parties with minor children must attend a parenting class before your divorce can be finalized.
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. A parenting plan must be included.
Parties can also present their agreements orally to the judge in a final hearing if it is not yet formalized in writing. However, a trail will be required for divorces where there are still disputes. Note that some Florida counties require parties to try to resolve their dispute through mediation before proceeding to trial.
The judge will decide the contested issues before issuing their final ruling on the divorce.
How to File for Divorce in Florida Without an Attorney
Both the simplified dissolution of marriage and the regular dissolution of marriage processes above can be completed without a lawyer's help. There are self-help resources available for Florida residents who choose to represent themselves in divorce.
However, divorce is a complex legal process that has long-lasting effects on some of the most valuable aspects of your life, including your kids, property, and income. At the very least, you should meet with a lawyer who can review your divorce agreement to make sure you are getting a fair outcome.
How to Find a Divorce Lawyer in Florida
Finding a lawyer to help you with your divorce doesn't have to be difficult. You can ask friends or family for referrals, or you can consult attorney directory listings to search for local attorneys in your area such as:
Keep in mind that you don't have to hire a lawyer to represent you throughout the whole process of divorce. Most divorce lawyers offer limited-scope services and could help you with specific tasks like reviewing your divorce agreement or attending a court hearing with you.
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.