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Overview of Divorce Laws in Florida

Divorce Process in Florida

Divorce is sometimes inevitable, and if a divorce is in your future, it can help to have a basic understanding of Florida divorce laws. These laws are complicated, and they can influence the outcome of your divorce and affect your future for years to come. Below is a brief overview of Florida divorce laws, but you should always reach out to a divorce attorney to discuss how the law applies to your specific situation.

Obtaining a Divorce in Florida

Obtaining a dissolution of marriage in Florida begins by filing papers with the proper family court. In the petition, you must state grounds, which is the reason for the divorce. Florida is a no-fault divorce state, which means you don’t need to show that your spouse engaged in some bad behavior, such as committing adultery, to get a divorce. Rather, either you or your spouse can file for a no-fault divorce by simply stating that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

This is legal language that simply means that you and your spouse cannot get along anymore, no matter how much more you try. However, even though you do not have to show bad behavior for a divorce, a judge may consider one spouse’s bad behavior or fault when deciding other issues, such as property division or determining an alimony award.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Florida

To be eligible to file for divorce in Florida, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state. Either you or your spouse must have lived in Florida for six months or longer before you filed for divorce.

A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

A simplified dissolution of marriage is a quicker, cheaper, and easier way of getting divorced in Florida.

A couple that satisfies all the following requirements may file for a simplified dissolution:

  • Both agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • There are no children under the age of 18 or dependent children, and a spouse is not pregnant.
  • Neither spouse seeks alimony.
  • The spouses have a written agreement on how they want to divide marital assets and debts.
  • Both spouses agree to the simplified dissolution procedure, which also requires giving up the right to a trial and appeal.

As a couple seeking a simplified dissolution, you should still have help from a divorce attorney to protect your rights and avoid delays. Your attorney will prepare and file all necessary documents with the court and represent you when you appear before a judge, who will review the documents and grant the divorce if everything is in order.

Standard Dissolution of Marriage

Couples who do not satisfy all the requirements for a simplified divorce can still obtain a divorce through a traditional dissolution proceeding. This process begins when either spouse files a petition to end the marriage with the court.

This petition states the grounds for the divorce, and the filing spouse also states in the petition what they want in terms of child custody, child support, alimony, and division of property, if any are applicable. If you are filing the petition, you must properly deliver a copy of the petition to your spouse.

Once you serve your spouse with the petition, he or she must file an answer to your petition with the court. In their answer, they may agree or disagree with some or all of what you stated and requested.

If they disagree on any issue, then spouses have an opportunity to discuss and negotiate the terms of the divorce with their attorneys. If they agree on all relevant matters, they can sign a “divorce agreement.” Your attorney can present your agreement to the court, and the judge will approve the agreement and make it part of your divorce judgment as long as it is in line with Florida law.

If the spouses cannot agree on all terms through attorney negotiation or with the help of a professional mediator, the divorce case may go to trial before a judge. The family judge will then decide any remaining issues in the divorce at a trial.

Property Division in Florida Divorce

As an equitable distribution state, Florida law allows a judge to divide a couple’s marital property fairly but not necessarily equally. This is only necessary if the spouses cannot reach a property and asset division agreement. If they agree, then the judge will likely order division as agreed to by the spouses.

If the couple fails to agree on distribution, then a judge will decide how they should divide all marital property and debts while considering the following factors under Florida law:

  • Each spouse’s income and job opportunities
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • How either spouse contributed to the other spouse’s earning potential or career
  • The desirability of keeping the marital home as the couple’s minor children residence
  • Either spouse’s misuse or waste of marital assets
  • Any other relevant factor

Timesharing and Parental Responsibility

A parenting order will specify each parent’s responsibility in making decisions affecting the couple’s shared children, including issues affecting a child’s health, education, and religion.  Timesharing orders will state where the child lives and when, and where the child spends holidays and summer vacations.

Parents can agree to these arrangements, or a judge will make these determinations based on the child’s best interests. Judges rely on well-established factors in determining what is in the best interest of the child.

Florida Child Support

Both parents must financially support their children. In Florida, a judge will consider the income of both parents and the timesharing arrangement, in determining who should pay child support and how much. The state established publicly available child support guidelines that parents can use to estimate their potential support obligations.

Divorce laws are complex, and you must follow them to obtain a successful divorce in Florida. If you have specific questions about divorce, then you should contact a local divorce lawyer for advice as soon as possible. The right legal representation can only benefit the outcome of your case and your future.

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