How to File Divorce in Florida

File a divorce in Florida

Florida is an interesting place that has become somewhat infamous for its oddball characters. If you are considering getting divorced in Florida, here are some of the basics of what you need to know.

1. Residency required

In order to file for divorce in Florida, one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months.

2. Grounds for divorce

Until recent decades, a spouse seeking a divorce had to prove some fault by the other spouse.  

Florida has eliminated most of these grounds for divorce, with the exception of a loss of mental capacity. Few, if any, spouses will seek to get divorced on that ground. Instead, nearly all Florida divorces will use the state’s no-fault ground that grants divorce when a marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

3. Divorce express lane

Florida is one of several states that have sped up the divorce process for some couples.

In Florida, the expedited process requires that the couple must have no children together and have an agreement on dividing their assets.  Note that this agreement needs to be worked out before filing a petition for divorce with the court.

There is an even simpler form for couples that have no assets or liabilities to divide.  Neither spouse can seek spousal support (also known as alimony) from the other. The couple must agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.  

Florida calls their expedited process a “simplified dissolution of marriage.”  

Both spouses will still usually have to appear before a judge, and that judge will likely ask some questions about the situation.  The judge has to decide that the marriage is actually irretrievably broken, but that is not usually a heavy burden.

Typically if a couple wants to divorce, a judge will let them.  The judge will probably spend more time making sure that the property division agreement if one is needed, is fair.

4. Normal petition for the divorce process

For a divorce involving children or a dispute over money, the process of getting divorced looks much like any other court case.

One spouse must file a petition for dissolution of marriage. That petition will often include a request for a split of property, and child custody plus support. Then the other spouse will respond with what he or she wants. The couple will go through a process called discovery, where each one will get access to information from the other.

As this goes along, the spouses will probably be trying to settle the case either on their own or with the help of a mediator.  

Eventually, only if all else fails, the spouses will wind up in court trying to show the judge why they should prevail.

5. Waiting period

Florida has imposed a short waiting period of 20 days between when the petition for divorce is filed and when a final dissolution of marriage order can be issued.

The judge could waive this period if the delay caused injustice. In reality, it is very difficult to get a divorce processed within 20 days so this waiting period does not have much of a practical effect.  

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