How to file for divorce in Florida

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This article provides an overview regarding divorce in the state of Florida. Generally speaking a divorce in Florida can be a straightforward process especially if there are no children involved in the matter is largely uncontested or wholly uncontested.

Many people are able to complete the divorce process on their own and without an attorney. It’s recommended whether or not you’re going to proceed on your own you consult with an attorney prior to filing. This article does not discuss things like how to determine child custody and parenting time, how to obtain spousal support, or the specific legal breakdown for determining assets and liability division in a dissolution .

This article is a good starting place for a person trying to understand divorce in Florida but should not be the only thing that a person reviews and instead any person contemplating a divorce should seek the guidance of a competent attorney in good standing in their local area. 

Divorce in Florida can be filed as either a no-fault or fault divorce. A no-fault divorce is where the parties agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken and there’s no hope for reconciliation.

A fault divorce generally speaking occurs when one party alleges adultery, mental cruelty, abandonment, drug addiction, or other issues that caused the breakdown of the marriage. In either scenario, the filing spouse must live in the state of Florida for at least six months prior to filing and must file in the county in which they reside.

If you choose to file a no-fault divorce you will need to file a petition with the clerk of court’s office in your county and pay a filing fee, which is currently $409.00. Once you file your petition the court will issue a summons for your spouse to be served with process.

Once your spouse receives the summons they will have 20 days to respond to the divorce action if they reside in Florida, 30 days if they reside out of state but within the United States, and 40 days if they reside outside of the United States. If your spouse files a response to the petition that disputes any of the claims made by you or disagrees with any relief that you’re requesting then the divorce will likely become contested and may require resolution through mediation or a trial.

If on the other hand, you choose to file a fault divorce one of the grounds that must be alleged is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Once you file your petition the court will issue a summons for your spouse to be served with process.

Your spouse will have 20 days to respond to the divorce action if they reside in Florida, 30 days if they reside out of state but within the United States, and 40 days if they reside outside of the United States. If your spouse files a response to the petition that disputes any of the claims made by you or disagrees with any relief that you’re requesting then the divorce will likely become contested and may require resolution through mediation or a trial.

If both parties are able to come to an agreement on all issues related to their dissolution then they can proceed with an uncontested divorce. In order to do this, both parties will need to sign and file a marital settlement agreement with the court.

This document will outline all of the terms of the divorce including things like asset division, spousal support, child custody, and parenting time. Once the settlement agreement is filed with the court a judge will review it to make sure that it’s fair and equitable. If the judge approves the settlement agreement then they will sign it and it will become a binding contract.

Now let’s get into the details a bit more of the divorce process and the divorce papers you’ll need.

Preparing Florida Divorce Forms

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The divorce paperwork is available via Florida’s Self Help Center.

In Florida a case begins with the filing of a petition. A petition is a written request submitted to the court for legal redress also referred to as legal action. The person who is the initial filer is referred to as the petitioner and remains the petitioner throughout the case. The other party in the case is referred to as the respondent and they also remained the respondent throughout the case.

The petition is given to the clerk of the circuit court which office is almost always located in the county courthouse or a branch of the county courthouse. After filing a case number is assigned and a court file is officially opened. Delivery of the petition to the clerks office is called filing a case. If Eileen fee is usually required.

The office of the clerk of court is responsible for maintaining all court records and collecting all filing fees. The clerk of court does not give legal advice nor can they explain how the law applies to your case. The clerk of the court also cannot help you fill out your forms or tell you what to write on them.

When a case is filed, certain documents must be provided to the respondent along with a summons within a specified period of time which is 20 days if the respondent lives in Florida, 30 days if they live out-of-state but within the United States, and 40 days if they live outside of the United States. If these documents are not provided then the case may be dismissed.

Qualifying for a Florida Divorce

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You must establish to the court that you have lived in Florida for at least 6 months prior to filing the petition for dissolution of marriage. There are a variety of ways of proving the 6 month period, such as a valid Florida driver’s license or voter registration card issued to you 6 months before your filing of the divorce.

You may also provide a utility bill or lease agreement that has your name and address on it as well as being dated 6 months before you file the divorce.

Even if you have not lived in Florida for 6 months, you may still be able to file for dissolution of marriage in Florida under certain special circumstances. These include when:

  • Your spouse lives in Florida and you have been physically abused by your spouse in Florida.
  • You have been abandoned by your spouse in Florida.
  • Your spouse has committed adultery while living in Florida.
  • You are a member of the military stationed in Florida and have received orders to relocate outside of Florida.

In these situations, you may file for an immediate divorce without having to satisfy the 6 month residency requirement.

You will also need to file in the county where you or your spouse reside. If both of you live outside of Florida then you may file in the county where you were last married.

Filing your forms

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So at this point you’ve gotten the petition and completed the petition. After you complete the petition you’ll need to sign before a notary. Many banks provide notary services. You can also sign it before a clerk of the court were you intend to file the case. Next, after the petition is signed and notarized it needs to be filed with the clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where you live. It’s important to keep copies of anything that you file with the court for your own records. Filing fees are discussed below.

Serving Your Forms

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Now that your case is filed with the court you’ll need to complete service of the original petition or a supplemental petition. When the petitioner files a petition or motion or other pleading the other party also known as the respondent must be served with a copy of the document this also means that the other party the respondent in this case is given proper notice of the pending actions and any schedule hearing. Personal service of the petition and summons on the respondent is usually done through a deputy sheriff or a private process server and is required in all original petitions and supplemental petitions.

The only exception to this rule is constructive service and that is only available in limited circumstances. It’s generally recommended that you achieve personal service and if you have questions about constructive service to talk to an attorney. A special note: this article does not talk about subsequent service or electronic service.

If the respondent lives in Florida

The process server will attempt to serve the papers within 120 days. If the respondent lives out-of-state but within the United States, the process server will have up to 180 days to serve the papers. If the respondent lives outside of the United States, then service must be completed within 1 year.

The general rule for service is that it must be done in a manner that gives the respondent notice of the pending action and an opportunity to defend themselves. This usually means hand delivery by a law enforcement officer or licensed process server. The documents that must be served on the respondent are:

  • A copy of your filed petition or motion;
  • A blank response form; and
  • A notice of hearing, if one is scheduled.

The notice of hearing will list the date, time, and location of the hearing. The respondent must be served with these documents at least 20 days before the hearing. If the respondent cannot be found or is avoiding service, then you may ask the court for permission to serve by publication or posting. This will require that a notice be published in a newspaper or posted in a public place for a certain period of time. The process and requirements for this are different in each county so it’s important to check with your local court rules.

It’s important to note that even if the respondent doesn’t file a response, they will still need to be served with notice of hearings and any other documents filed in the case. The best way to do this is to have the process server attempt service at least 10 days before the hearing.

How do I file for divorce in Florida without an attorney?

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At a fundamental level, filing for a divorce on your own is the same technical process as using an attorney. The difference is that an attorney uses their own forms and you as a self represented party will likely use court forms where most of the items are pre-filled out and you were checking boxes and filling in blanks. Filing a divorce without an attorney is generally done in cases where the parties are not in disagreement about what should happen with the divorce. For instance the parties agree generally about how the assets (such as cars or real property) should be divided and who is going to be responsible for what debt after the divorce is finalized. Where parties are in disagreement about how the property should be divided and how the debts should be distributed it is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney before proceeding with a dissolution.

Individual Resources

There are a number of resources available to assist you in understanding the divorce process and what will be required of you. The Florida Courts website has a wealth of information on divorce, including but not limited to the following topics:

  • Overview of the Divorce Process in Florida
  • Filing for Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage with Minor Children
  • Filing for Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage without Minor Children
  • Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
  • Financial Affidavit (Form 12.902(e))
  • Parenting Plan (Form 12.995)
  • Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (Form 12.980(a))

How to file for divorce in Florida With a Child?

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The parenting plan will become part of the final judgment in your divorce case

In order to file for divorce in Florida with a child, you must first file a petition with the clerk of court in the county where you or your spouse resides. Once the petition is filed, your spouse will be served notice of the pending action and given an opportunity to respond.

If you have minor children, you will also need to file a parenting plan that sets forth how custody and visitation will be handled. Once all of the required paperwork has been filed and served, a hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the judge will review the paperwork and make any necessary decisions regarding property division, debt allocation, child custody, and other issues. A final judgment of divorce will then be entered, which will officially dissolve your marriage.

How to file for divorce in Florida Without a Child?

If you do not have any minor or dependent children with your spouse, you can still file for divorce in Florida. The process is similar to the process for divorces with children, but there are a few key differences.

First, you will not need to file a parenting plan since there will be no custody or visitation issues to resolve. Second, the financial affidavit may be waived if both parties agree to do so. Once all of the required paperwork has been filed and served, a hearing will be scheduled.

At the hearing, the judge will review the paperwork and make any necessary decisions regarding property division, debt allocation, and other issues. A final judgment of divorce will then be entered, which will officially dissolve your marriage.

How much does it cost to file for divorce in Florida?

In Florida the filing fee is $397.50. You will pay a $10.50 recording fee for your Final Judgment (required), and $10.00 for a summons fee so that your ex can be served (unless your spouse agrees to sign a Waiver of Service). Total cost excluding lawyer fees: $418.00.

If these fees are too expensive, you can request an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status from the Court Clerk, and file it along with your petition for dissolution of marriage. The Clerk will then determine whether or not you are eligible to have filing fees waived.

What is the first step in filing for divorce in Florida?

The first step in filing for a divorce is to determine that a divorce is the best option for you and your particular circumstance. Once you’ve made the decision that you’re going to go forward with the divorce and before you start preparing to actually file it’s important to go through the steps of document gathering and preparing a plan for once the divorce is filed.

For instance, gathering up all important bank documents and related passwords is a necessary key step for understanding the assets and debts involved in your dissolution.

You’ll want to make sure you have credit reports and billing for all accounts. You’ll also want to start gathering up all irreplaceable items or family heirlooms so that once you file the divorce you know where they are and they are in a safe place.

You’ll also want to determine where you’re going to be living after the divorce is filed unless you plan to continue co-habitation with your soon to be ex. After you’ve secured the key financial documents taking steps to financially protect yourself and develop the plan for once the divorce is filed you’re prepared to take the first step and actually filing the divorce which is obtaining all of the paperwork from the court to actually file the original petition for dissolution.

Once you have that paperwork from the court you’ll carefully review it and make sure that it’s fully filled out correctly. If at any of these steps you start to become confused it’s recommended that you talk to an attorney to establish a plan and ensure that you’ve protect yourself both emotionally and financially for what is coming.

Can I file for divorce myself in Florida?

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The short answer is yes. However if you file a divorce on your own in Florida you must make sure that you follow all of the rules for filing. This article has discussed some of those rules such as notary and service of process but this article is not necessarily exhaustive and should not be relied upon exclusively for ensuring that your divorce is properly filed.

This article provides an overview regarding divorce in the state of Florida. In Florida like many states a divorce is referred to as a dissolution. Generally speaking a divorce in Florida can be a straightforward process especially if there are no children involved in the matter is largely uncontested or wholly uncontested. Many people are able to complete the divorce process on their own and without an attorney. It’s recommended whether or not you’re going to proceed on your own you consult with an attorney prior to filing. This article does not discuss things like how to determine child custody and parenting time, how to obtain spousal support, or the specific legal breakdown for determining assets and liability division in a dissolution . This article is a good starting place for a person trying to understand divorce in Florida but should not be the only thing that a person reviews and instead any person contemplating a divorce should seek the guidance of a competent attorney in good standing in their local area.