Everything You Need to Know before Getting Divorced in Florida
Getting a divorce can be a highly emotional and legally complex process. Here’s everything you need to know so you can feel better about moving forward with your divorce (and post-divorce life) in Florida.
Florida Divorce Prerequisites
Do You Meet the Residency Requirement?
To file for divorce in Florida, you or your spouse must have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing for divorce. Residency may be corroborated by a valid Florida driver’s license, Florida identification card, or voter’s registration card (the issue date of the document must be at least 6 months before the date the case is actually filed), or the testimony or affidavit of someone other than you or your spouse by using this form.
Do You Have a Reason for Divorce (Grounds or Fault)?
Florida is a no-fault divorce state, meaning spouses do not have to show wrongdoing by the other spouse or prove other divorce-granting issues. They can simply state that there are “irreconcilable differences” in the marriage.
Can Financial Disclosures Be Waived?
Financial disclosures cannot be waived. Both spouses are required to provide a complete and accurate accounting of their respective financial situations to one another during the divorce process. This is done through a financial affidavit and generally involves producing documentation relating to income, assets, and debts.
Financial disclosures are important for many reasons. They establish a baseline financial position for each person and allow a court to make fair and equitable decisions regarding property division, spousal maintenance, and child support. Without accurate financial disclosures, one party may hide assets or income, which could lead to an unfair outcome in the marital settlement agreement.
Are You Required to Take a Parenting Class?
If you and your spouse share minor children, parenting classes are required as part of the Florida divorce process. The parenting classes provide parents with information and guidance on the impact of divorce on children and help parents develop effective co-parenting strategies.
Florida Divorce Forms and Fees
The filing fee for divorce in Florida ranges from $200-400, depending on the county in which you file. If you are unable to pay this fee, you can submit a filing fee waiver. The court will review your financial situation and decide whether to waive the fee due to financial hardship. To file the waiver, there is a $25 administrative fee.
Based on the type of divorce you are filing, different forms are required. The main forms include:
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage:
- Without Minor Children or Property
- With Property but No Minor Children
- With Minor Children but No Property
- With Minor Children and Property
This form is used to notify the other party that divorce papers have been filed and to instruct them on how to respond.
Waiver of Service:
This form is used when the Respondent waives the requirement of personal service (delivery of the filed Petition by a Deputy Sheriff or professional process server).
This form is used to provide a complete and accurate accounting of the party’s financial situation.
Child Support Worksheet:
This form is used to calculate child support.
Marital Settlement Agreement:
This form is used to outline the terms of the divorce settlement, including property division, spousal maintenance, and child custody and support, if applicable. It also varies based on whether there are children or property addressed in the divorce:
- Without Minor Children or Property
- With Property but No Minor Children
- With Minor Children
Basic Divorce Steps in Florida
If you are proceeding with an uncontested divorce, the process will generally breakdown to:
- File the Petition and applicable initial forms (e-file is recommended).
- Upon receiving your filed Petition, you will then serve your spouse via a professional process server or sheriff’s deputy. Your spouse can also waive this requirement by notarizing and then filing a Waiver of Service.
- The Respondent then has the option to file an Answer confirming or challenging claims made in the Petition. They can also file a Counterpetition asserting claims or making their own requests.
- Both spouses complete financial disclosures.
- If there are children, you will also need to create a parenting plan and complete the Child Support Worksheet. The parenting plan can be submitted after the divorce is finalized.
- Both parents will be required to take a parenting class.
- Spouses reach an agreement on all terms of their divorce, including property and debt division, custody, support payments, etc. (this is called a Martial Settlement Agreement).
- A final court hearing is required. This is not a “trial.” It is simply a review of terms the spouses submitted to the court. Upon approval by the judge, they will sign off on and finalize your divorce.
Property Division Overview
Florida is an “equitable distribution” or “marital property” state as opposed to a “community property” state. This means that the marital property is divided in an equitable manner. So if your name appears on a property title, you are considered its owner; however, your spouse will have a legal right to claim an equal portion of that property when divorcing.
It’s important to note that this marital property approach recognizes that one spouse may be entitled to more or less than 50 percent of the total assets to be split.
When dividing marital property, the court considers factors like (but not limited to):
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The value of household management, including childcare
- The income level of the parties, as well as their future earning potential
- The age and health of the parties
In Florida, parental custody (also known as parental responsibility) is determined based on the best interests of the child. The courts consider several factors when making decisions about child custody and visitation arrangements:
- The best interest of the child, which is based on the child’s age, physical and mental health, and special needs.
- The parent’s ability to provide for the child’s specific needs, including the parents’ stability, mental and physical health, and any history of abuse or neglect.
- The quality of relationships between the parents and child.
- Depending on their age and possibly other factors, who the child prefers to live with.
Florida law also assumes that it is in the best interest of the children for both parents to remain active in the children’s lives, and the courts favor custody arrangements that have both parents getting equal time unless there are reasons they should not be (examples: one parent lives out of state, or a parent is unable to adequately care for the children).
Child Support in Florida
Child support is money paid from one parent to the other to help cover the cost of raising a child. Child support is meant to provide for the basic needs of the child. This includes housing, food, clothing, medical care, and education.
Child support calculations are primarily based on the incomes of the parents, the needs of the children, the amount of time each parent has the children, and the custody arrangement.
The Florida court website provides a Child Support Worksheet, which can be used to get an estimate of the support amount. You can find a sample calculator here to get an estimate for support payments. Ultimately, though, the court will be the one to determine and approve the amount.
What to Know About Spousal Support
Spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, is a payment made from one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Its purpose is to provide financial support to the receiving spouse, who may have become financially dependent on the other spouse for various reasons.
In Florida, spousal support can be awarded during the divorce proceedings or at the final judgment. The amount and duration of spousal maintenance are determined by the court and based on a variety of factors, such as:
- Length of marriage
- Income and earning capacity
- Education and training that can secure or improve earning capacity
- Current assets
- Standard of living while married – which is an evaluation of how expenses were covered and what types of expenses were covered during the marriage
- Health and age of the spouses
- Child custody and support terms
- Contributions to the marriage – this takes into account financial and caretaking contributions
There are also different types of spousal support:
- Bridge-the-gap support is designed to help one spouse transition from being married to being single. It is usually awarded for a short-term period and cannot exceed two years. Its purpose is to assist with basic needs like housing or transportation.
- Rehabilitative support aims to support the receiving spouse in developing skills or acquiring education or training necessary to become self-supporting.
- Durational support provides financial support to a spouse for a set period, typically when permanent alimony is not appropriate. The duration of the alimony award cannot exceed the length of the marriage.
- Permanent support can be awarded in long-term marriages, usually 17 years or more when one spouse is financially dependent and unable to become self-supporting. It continues until the death of either spouse, remarriage of the recipient spouse, or a substantial change in circumstances that justifies its modification or termination. Permanent alimony is less common in Florida due to the preference for other types of support.
- Temporary support can be awarded during the divorce proceedings to provide financial support until a final alimony determination is made. It helps ensure both spouses have their financial needs met while the divorce is pending.
- Lump sum support is when a one-time payment or a series of payments in a fixed amount are paid rather than ongoing support. It can be awarded as a way to equalize the distribution of marital assets.
Navigating a divorce in Florida can be challenging, but understanding the prerequisites, forms, and steps involved can make the process smoother. By being informed about child custody, child support, and spousal support, you can approach the divorce process with confidence and ensure your rights and interests are protected. Remember to consult with a qualified family attorney to guide you through this significant life transition.
FAQs about Florida Divorce
1. How Long Will the Divorce Process Take?
After filing the Petition, spouses must wait 20 days before filing their Marital Settlement Agreement and final forms. From there, the processing time will depend upon how busy your county court is. Some courts can return a finalized Judgment within a few weeks, while others may take a few months.
2. Can I E-File My Divorce Papers in Florida?
Yes, the court accepts e-filing. This option is beneficial because you do not have to worry about forms being lost in the mail and your uploads will be timestamped.
You can also file your forms in person or by mail. In doing so, you’ll want to confirm the requirements. For example, some courts require a certain amount of copies or that forms be stapled together versus using a paperclip.