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Understanding the Divorce Process in Florida

Each state has its own rules for divorce, and as a result there are a lot of myths about the requirements of filing a divorce. The state of Florida no longer requires fault as a ground for divorce, and therefore the only requirement for a Florida resident to dissolve his or her marriage is to prove the marriage is "irretrievably broken."

In Florida the official term for divorce is "dissolution of marriage," and either spouse may file for dissolution. While Florida is a no-fault state for the purposes of dissolving a marriage, fault may be considered in other areas of the divorce process including equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, determination of parental responsibility, and award of alimony.

There are two ways of getting a dissolution or divorce in Florida and both generally require the individual filing for dissolution prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a resident of Florida for six months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Regular Dissolution of Marriage

The typical method of filing for dissolution of marriage in Florida is through the "regular dissolution of marriage" process. The regular dissolution process starts with filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in the circuit court in the county where the petitioner last lived with his or her spouse or in the county where either spouse resides. As noted above, either spouse may file for dissolution, and the petitioner must allege the marriage is irretrievably broken. Once a petition for dissolution has been filed, the other spouse must file an answer within 20 days of being served. In his or her answer, the other spouse must address the matters contained in the petition and can include additional issues not addressed by the petitioner.

Once the dissolution is in process, the court will require each party to provide financial documents and a financial affidavit within 45 days of when the petition was served. The court may change the requirement of financial documentation, but any case in which finances are at issue will still require the financial affidavit. A child support guidelines document must be filed with the court before or at any child support hearing and cannot be waived.

When divorcing spouses are able to agree on child custody and support, property division and other post-divorce issues, they record the agreement in writing signed by both parties and the written agreement is presented to the court. If the divorcing individuals are not able to reach an agreement on the majority of issues, each party will present its case at trial and a judge will make a final ruling on the contested issues.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

A simplified dissolution of marriage is meant to be used in situations where there are few spots of potential contention. Therefore, only certain divorcing individuals may use the simplified dissolution of marriage. Divorcing spouses may use simplified dissolution if:

  • They both agree to use the simplified dissolution
  • They have no minor children
  • The wife is not pregnant
  • At least one party lived in Florida for the preceding six months
  • Neither party is seeking alimony
  • The parties have agreed on division of all property and debts
  • Both parties agree the marriage is irretrievably broken

There are substantial differences between regular and simplified dissolution. In a regular dissolution, each party has the right to examine and cross-examine the other as a witness, and each spouse has the ability to obtain documents concerning the other party's financial situation, including information on income, expenses, assets and liabilities, before settlement or trial. In a simplified dissolution there is no right to examine or cross-examine the other spouse, and financial information may only be requested but disclosure is not required.

If you are considering divorce in Florida, contact an experienced family law attorney who can help guide you through the process and protect your rights.

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