If you are considering a divorce in Florida, there are a few things you should know. The process can be complicated, and it is important to understand the different steps involved. This article will provide an overview of how to file a divorce in Florida and what to expect after the process.
Why You Might Need a Divorce in Florida
If you’re considering a divorce in Florida, there are a few things you should know. The state has its own unique laws when it comes to divorce, and it’s important to be aware of them before making any decisions.
For one, Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that unlike states such as Georgia and Alabama, you don’t need to prove that your spouse did anything wrong in order to get a divorce in Florida. All you need to do is show that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” or that one of the parties is mentally incapacitated.
This is the most common way people in Florida pursue divorce. If you can show that your marriage is irretrievably broken, then you can end the marriage without having to prove that your spouse did anything wrong. It basically means that the marriage is broken beyond repair and that you’ve done everything you can to try to fix it, but nothing has worked. If one of you has committed adultery or some other serious wrongdoing, then that could also be a sign of an irretrievably broken marriage. Even if none of the spouse contest the divorce, the court will still hold a trial to make sure your marriage is over.
The divorce process may be prolonged to allow for a reconciliation of the couple in cases where:
- there are minor children
- the judge finds a sustainable reason to save the marriage
A judge may also order that either or both spouses undergo a psychological evaluation or counselling sessions before granting the divorce.
Another ground for dissolution of marriage in Florida is when one or both spouses are mentally incapacitated, or otherwise incapable of understanding the nature and consequences of the marital relationship. The following requirements should be met before the request for marriage dissolution is granted:
- a medical certificate confirming the incapacity of the spouse at least 3 years before the petition was filed must be presented to the court
- the incapacitated spouse must have been declared legally incompetent by a court-appointed committee of mental health professionals
- a notice of divorce proceeding was sent to the guardian or relatives of the incapacitated spouse, whoever is legally responsible for the incapacitated spouse’s care and support. In case the alleged incapacitated spouse has no legal guardian, a person who has been legally entrusted with the care of the incapacitated spouse shall be served notice.
Note that you may be ordered to pay spousal support to your incapacitated ex-spouse. A spouse can be declared incapacitated for purposes of divorce if s/he is: unable to communicate, whether verbally or in writing; unable to care for himself or herself; unable to provide shelter, clothing, food, and other necessities of life.
Even though Florida is a no-fault state, it does not mean that any type of abuse or domestic violence will be tolerated. If sufficient evidence is provided, a judge can grant a restraining order and even prohibit your spouse from contacting the children even before the marriage dissolution.
Moreover, if you can prove that your spouse was at fault for the breakup of the marriage, you may be able to get a more favorable outcome in your divorce case. For example, if the court finds that you have committed adultery, your spouse may get a larger share of your community property. Moreover, you may be ordered to pay additional fees and costs if you are the party that committed abuse or cruelty.
Quick Steps on How to Get a Divorce in Florida
Below are the major steps in how to get a divorce in Fl. Keep in mind there are many, many details that may be relevant to your specific situation.
Step 1: Establish residency
Establish residency in Florida, if you are not a resident of the state. If you and your spouse both live in Florida, you can file for divorce in either county where you live.
Step 2: Hire an attorney to represent you
You will want an experienced divorce attorney to represent you. If you and your spouse can’t agree on child custody, child support, or alimony (spousal support), the judge will appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) to represent the interests of any children involved and make recommendations to the court.
Step 3: File a petition for dissolution of marriage
Fill out and file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You can get a copy of the petition from your attorney or download it from the Florida Supreme Court website. The party filing for divorce in Florida is referred to in the law as the Petitioner. The person who receives the petition and has 20 days to respond is called the Respondent. You must also file a summons with the court clerk. The clerk will give you a court date to appear before the judge either in person or by telephone.
Step 4: Serve your spouse
Serve your spouse with a copy of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and a Summons to Answer. As mentioned earlier, the respondent has 20 days to answer. The answer, which usually includes a counter-petition for dissolution, must be filed in person or by mail. The respondent may also include what he or she agrees to in the case, such as child support and custody and other details. The judge will sign a final judgment after both you and your spouse appear before the court.
During the divorce process, either party can file a temporary order requesting what he or she wants in the case. A temporary order is not a final judgment and can be modified later on. They can also request restraining orders and protective orders.
Step 5: Attend a final hearing
The court will hold a final hearing to decide whether the marriage should be dissolved and what orders should be made for support (also called child support), custody, and visitation.
What to Expect After Getting a Divorce in Florida
Below are some of the things you can expect to happen after a divorce in Florida is finalized:
Parenting plans and child custody
A divorce does not automatically mean that the court will order child custody for you. The parties must agree to the terms of a parenting plan and child custody arrangement. If the parties are unable to agree on a parenting plan, the court will decide how your children should be raised.
The plan would include important details, like who will make critical decisions on behalf of the children (such as medical care and schooling), how much parenting time each parent gets with the children, and how the parents will share responsibility for everyday tasks (such as taking kids to school or getting them to sports practices). The aim is to provide stability and predictability for your children.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court will divide your marital assets according to what it considers “equitable” or fair, not necessarily equally. You and your spouse must reach an agreement about how to divide your property.
The first step is to figure out what property you have. You should each keep a comprehensive list of the assets you each bring into the marriage and those that you acquired during the marriage. An experienced family law attorney can help you gather this information, establish values for all assets, and craft an equitable property division agreement.
Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is money that one spouse pays to the other spouse after a divorce. The court will decide whether or not to award alimony and, if so, how much and for how long. There are perimeters that are based on the financial needs of the spouse seeking support, the paying spouse’s ability to pay, and the length of the marriage. Generally, spouses may be awarded alimony in Florida only after they have been married for at least seven years.
The process of getting a divorce in Florida can be long and complicated. However, by following the steps in this guide, you can make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible. Remember to consult with an attorney to ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to protect your rights, and to file all the required paperwork with the court.
Contact Brandon Divorce Lawyer for a free consultation about your divorce case. We can help you get the divorce you want.