You can file for a simplified dissolution of marriage or a regular dissolution of marriage. A simplified dissolution of marriage is limited to couples who do not have minor children, are not seeking spousal support, and agree on the terms of property division. This type of divorce is also known as an uncontested divorce.
A regular dissolution of marriage is the process used by all other couples seeking a divorce. It is referred to as a contested divorce. However, the parties may agree to the divorce terms to avoid litigation.
Florida divorce laws do not require parties to prove “fault” to obtain a dissolution of marriage; either party may claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken to obtain a divorce. Otherwise, either spouse can obtain a divorce by filing the proper documents and proving that one or both spouses have lived in Florida for at least six months before the filing.
Steps of the Divorce Process in Florida
Each divorce case is unique. However, the steps in the divorce process are similar in each case:
Filing a Petition of Dissolution
The divorce process begins when either spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage with the circuit court in the county of their residence or the county where the spouses last resided as a married couple.
The petition for dissolution of marriage sets out the facts of the case, such as when the parties were married, whether there are minor children, and how long the parties have resided in the state. It also states the relief the spouse is seeking. For example, the petition might state the spouse is seeking spousal support and full child custody.
Service and Response
The petition must be served on the other spouse. The other spouse has 20 days to file an answer responding to the allegations in the petition. In their answer, the other spouse may agree with the allegations of the petition, or the spouse may counter-petition and raise other issues they want the court to address.
Filing Financial Affidavits and Documents
Both spouses must file a financial affidavit and provide financial documents to the court. Generally, these documents are due 45 days after service of the petition for dissolution of marriage or several days before a temporary hearing.
Failing to file the required financial documentation and affidavits could result in a dismissal of the case. Alternatively, the judge might proceed with the case, but the judge may not consider the requests of the spouse who did not file the required documents.
Complete and File Child Support Worksheets
Florida law requires parents to provide financial support for their children, even when the parents are not married or do not live with the child.
If the parties have minor children, they must also complete and submit a child support guidelines worksheet. Florida uses child support guidelines to calculate how much a parent should pay to support their child.
Final Divorce Order
You can sign a written agreement to submit to the court if you and your spouse agree on child support, custody, parenting plan, spousal support, property division, and other divorce terms. The court reviews the agreement. Then, the judge incorporates the agreement into the final divorce order if the agreement is acceptable.
A hearing will be held if you and your spouse do not agree on terms. Each spouse may present evidence and testimony supporting their allegations. The judge makes a final decision regarding the contested matters and enters an order.
Seeking Legal Advice Before Filing for Divorce in Florida
Even if you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, it is wise to seek legal counsel before filing for divorce. For couples who can file for a simplified dissolution of marriage, the divorce process in Florida can be quick and straightforward. However, you never know when a spouse might change their mind about something.
Seeking legal advice from an experienced Orlando divorce lawyer ensures you understand your legal rights. If you then want to proceed with a simplified divorce without a lawyer, you can do so.
For couples who cannot agree on the terms of their divorce, the divorce process can be lengthy, stressful, and costly. Having experienced legal counsel early in the process can give you a better chance of achieving your desired outcome. It also ensures that you have a legal advocate who fights to protect your best interests and the best interests of your children.