Florida divorce details
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Uncontested vs Contested Divorce in Florida
As usual with an uncontested divorce, both spouses must negotiate and resolve all issues related to marital property and debts, and disputes about minor children. All these details should be settled in a signed "marital settlement agreement". Both spouses must also complete a financial affidavit, even if you have no property. The petitioner and sometimes the respondent must attend the final divorce hearing either. You are a good candidate for an online or DIY divorce if your case is determined as uncontested.
After one spouse files divorce papers and the other spouse answers, they go to trial and a judge deals with all contentious issues of the case. That spouse, who is a petitioner, must attend the final hearing. Notice, that if you need this type of divorce, it makes sense to seek the partial or full assistance of a lawyer.
Uncontested Divorce in Florida
So, if a couple can decide how to split up property, debts, child support etc. and sign a mutual agreement, which can be presented to the court, their case is uncontested.
Each spouse can file a Petition for divorce through the circuit court in the country either where he/she lives or in the country where the couple had lived together. The petition should list what the petitioner desires from the court to order.
After a spouse is served the Petition, he or she has 20 days to respond to the demands within it and is allowed to offer a counter-petition (that basically indicates that the person who was originally served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage also wants the divorce).
Within 45 days of service of process, the petitioner must deliver to the respondent a signed Financial Affidavit (a formal document that details the typical financial factors that play role in every marriage). Thus the documents provide a complete financial portrait that the respondent and court need. After filing, there is a quite short 20-day waiting period before the hearing in Florida. The final hearing itself is usually characterized by an easy-going atmosphere and generally, uncontested divorces are often finalized in a matter of weeks.
So, an uncontested divorce has a lot of advantages which will be considered further, but the greatest emotional benefit of filing an uncontested divorce is that you avoid a so-called “lifetime grudge match.” There are no official statistics but it is clear that contested cases produce a stream of court litigation in future disputes. Both parties angry with their original case tend to feel the outcome was unfair and they try again and again to correct this original injustice.
Grounds for Divorce in Florida
Florida is a purely no-fault state, so there are only two grounds for divorce in the Sunshine State.
- The marriage is irretrievably broken.
It is only necessary for one spouse to allege in the Petition that the is an irretrievable breakdown in relationship and a divorce will be granted. If the other party denies that the marriage is broken, the result is a 90-day cooling-off period (the term that means a certain time to give an estranged couple the opportunity to resolve existing differences and maybe to hold on to the marriage). If the husband and wife cannot resolve their disagreements in that period, typically, a divorce decree is issued by the court.
- The mental incapacity.
The second ground is a mental incapacity of one of the parties for a period of at least three years. Such reasons as, for example, an adultery etc. are not grounds for divorce in the State of Florida, though they influence the issues of equitable distribution and alimony.
Florida Residency Requirements to File for Divorce
Residency requirements for the Florida divorce are fairly ordinary: at least one spouse must be a resident of Florida for six months or 180 days before filing the petition of dissolution, which can be filed in the county where either the defendant resides, or the county where the spouses last lived together prior to separating.
Residency can be established by proving two factors:
- You were actually physically present in Florida. (But to be considered as actually physically present, you do not need to refuse traveling somewhere outside the state at all during the six month period of time).
- You have an intention during that time to make Florida your primary residence.
Here are some facts that can be used as proof that you intended to make Florida your home:
- Signing a lease or purchasing a home;
- Obtaining permanent employment in Florida;
- Joining a church, country club, or other social organizations in Florida;
- Obtaining a Florida driver’s license or auto registration;
- Filing for state taxes in Florida.
How to File For an Uncontested Divorce in Florida?
When all important marital and child-related issues are fully resolved you can start your uncontested divorce process.
- Prepare the Paperwork
Even if you are seeking an uncontested divorce, you need to be prepared to deal with the paperwork. The amount of paperwork that you will need to file will vary depending on the specific circumstances of your divorce. For example, if you have children under the age of 18, then you will be required to submit a detailed parenting plan, as well as your child support agreement.
To obtain an uncontested divorce, a spouse must first prepare a “Petition for Simplified Dissolution” and file it with the circuit court clerk’s office for the county according to the residency requirements. Even though there is a no-fault and amicable case, it is still important to put all the spouses' agreements in writing. Each spouse must sign it and notarize.
Spouses should also fill out a “Final Judgement of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” for the judge to sign upon the divorce finalization.
- Attend the Divorce Hearing
Once your uncontested divorce case nears its conclusion, a final hearing will be scheduled. This is a very important part of the process, you should not stress about the hearing. An uncontested divorce hearing usually is a relatively smooth and painless part of the process.
Do-It-Yourself Divorce in Florida
If you can reach an agreement with your spouse before you file for divorce, this will make the process simple enough that you don’t require professional legal counsel. In most uncontested and simplified divorces in Florida, you can represent yourself, saving long months and great expenses on attorney fees.
You can usually get fill-in-the-blank forms at your local courthouse or the local law library. The second way is to go to the online resource like this one, where you can find useful information about do-it-yourself divorce, along with court forms you can download on your computer.
With the assistance of an online divorce service, you can answer a few questions about the nature of your divorce and you will be supplied with all of the necessary documents to complete the process. Moreover, we offer an online support and review your completed forms.
How Much Does an Uncontested Divorce Cost?
If you feel comfortable handling the matter yourself and you don’t mind doing a little research into your state’s legal procedures, you might spend less than $500. If you hire an attorney to take care of the details for you, that figure might rise higher.
An uncontested divorce, for the most part, is generally cheaper than a contested divorce, even with an attorney's fees. Those fees tend to be about $4,000. For the most accurate information on divorce costs, you really can’t get an answer until you speak directly with an attorney who deals in divorce and family law on a regular basis.
How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced in Florida?
An average duration of a divorce process also depends on whether it is contested or not.
For a contested divorce it is 15 months, what is almost 4 months longer than the 11-month national average, and ranges from 7 to 20 months. A divorce where custody is an issue can take even longer.
An uncontested divorce can take as little as four to five weeks because a waiting period between filing the Petition and final hearing in Florida is only 20 days.
Papers & Documents You Need to Get a Divorce in Florida
Here is the basic list of needed forms for an uncontested divorce without considering children-related issues:
- Civil Cover Sheet
Includes general information about the spouses in the divorce proceeding.
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
It tells that you want a divorce and what you want the Court to order in the final. It is filed by the petitioner and provides information about your marriage and requests that a judge grant your divorce and issue an Order dissolving your marriage. When the petition is filed and signed the court will stamp it.
- Marital Settlement Agreement
This agreement is intended to help the parties formalize an allocation of their property and finances and matters relating to child custody and visitation. Most courts will require a Marital Settlement Agreement filed in conjunction with a Petition within the State of Florida.
- Financial Affidavit
It is a statement of your income, expenses, and assets. The form for the affidavit is prescribed by the Florida Supreme Court. Both parties must file and serve a financial affidavit in a divorce case.
Take the original set of completed and signed forms to the clerk and pay the filing fee. You will be contacted by email regarding a court date.
Normally the final hearing is when the divorce will be granted and all issues will be decided. If you do not go to the final hearing your case may be dismissed.
Once both sides have presented their evidence, the judge will make a decision and sign your divorce judgment. The final judgment will contain all the details of your divorce and the court’s decision or will incorporate your Marital Settlement Agreement. The copy of your divorce order will be given to you.
How to Serve Your Spouse in Florida
First, no matter where your spouse lives (even if you live together presently), you yourself can never serve your spouse with divorce papers. In most cases, you need to have a sheriff or a private service processor serve the papers.
If your spouse lives in a different county in Florida, you will most likely need to ask the clerk to send the materials to the Sheriff’s office for that county, or you can seek out a private service processor certified in that county.
Online Divorce in Florida
Online divorce is typically uncontested and no-fault.
You should follow the same steps and file the same forms as for usual uncontested divorce, but you receive them online. The short interview, provided by online-divorce service helps to choose and give you the relevant forms that are appropriate for your situation.
You can take an online help of paralegal or legal assistant to figure out some details, or just hire an attorney to do only a certain part of your divorce.
Nowadays Online Divorce is becoming increasingly popular due to its low cost, short terms, and variability.
Rules for Child Support and Visitation in Florida
The amount of child support must be calculated pursuant to the Florida Child Support Statute. Courts can award temporary child support immediately after a Court case is filed. That amount will have to be paid until circumstances change or until the final divorce hearing when permanent support will be ordered. Failure to pay child support can lead among other things to a finding of contempt/jail and loss of driver's' license or other licenses.
The parents' combined net income is used in the statutory formula to determine the amount of child support, after considering the number of children involved. The paying party's part is calculated in proportion to the other parent's income. Also, child care (day care) expenses are added, as is health insurance and health care costs.
Florida Child Support Statute has abolished the presumption for or against the father or mother, as well as for or against any specific time-sharing schedules when creating or modifying parenting plans for children.
If there are children, the uncontested case also includes a detailed parenting plan. Parenting plans detail where the children will live, sleep, go to school, and where they will spend certain holidays. Many judges especially appreciate parents able to negotiate their own parenting agreement. Most family law professionals believe parents able to negotiate their own uncontested parenting plan have a high degree of success in future co-parenting.
In general, courts try to strike a balance between the work schedule of the parents and the needs of the child. The goal, of course, is to foster a warm relationship with both parents.
But in case there is not very amicable separation, even third parties may be asked to assist in the situation, especially where supervised visitation is ordered. Supervised visitation may be necessary where one party proves that it is unsafe for the child to be alone with the other parent.
Rules for Spousal Support in Florida
Alimony or "spousal support" is a type of payment that may be ordered for one spouse to pay to the other after a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to alleviate any unfair economic burdens that may befall the lower-wage-earning spouse or the non-wage-earning spouse after a separation.
In Florida, alimony is determined after the court has equitably distributed the couple's assets and liabilities. After that division is made, the court will consider whether alimony ought to be paid, by whom, and what amount, if any. Spousal support can be granted to either the husband or the wife.
Division of Property in Florida
The general rule is that Florida is an “Equitable Distribution” state, and marital property, property acquired during the marriage with marital funds or labor, will be divided equally upon divorce (unless there is a reason for an unequal division). Nonmarital property and assets acquired before the marriage, remains the sole and separate property of the spouse upon divorce.
Courts allow for unequal distribution of marital assets in instances of marital misconduct coupled with a waste of marital assets. These situations can arise in instances where marital funds have been spent on an extramarital affair, were gambled away, or used to support a drug addiction. But notice! The marital misconduct alone is not enough for a court to award an unequal distribution. There must be a depletion of marital assets.
Division of Debt in Florida
Most people realize that divorce involves a property division, but debts will have to be divided too in Florida.
From credit card debts to a home mortgage, different kind of debts will also have to be split up during the divorce process.
Divorce Mediation in Florida
Some courts require but all courts recommend mediation. Mediation is not an attempt at marriage reconciliation but a procedure aimed to help you and your spouse reach an agreement without needing a trial or protracted process, which tend to be expensive. A mediation can be conducted by court-connected services or a privately trained mediator.
Mediation is suitable for an uncontested divorce. It can fulfill a certain psychological function when it is so important to learn to negotiate, go through this difficult period in a civilized way and not miss anything important because of quarrels and misunderstandings.
How to Divorce a Missing Spouse in Florida
If standard methods to serve the spouse with divorce paperwork are not successful, and he or she doesn't respond to the Petition and actually cannot be found, the Petitioner makes a "diligent search." There is a special form (an Affidavit of Diligent Search) that must confirm that a petitioner has made an exhaustive effort to locate his or her partner.
The Petitioner then prepares a Notice of Action for Dissolution of Marriage. This is published once a week for four weeks in a newspaper that specializes in publishing classified legal advertisements. This step is called Service by Publication. Assuming the missing spouse still does not respond within 28 days, the Petitioner can file a Default, and divorce action proceeds as a default divorce.
Default Divorce in Florida
As a divorce process begins, the respondent must file an answer for the divorce petition whatever by confirming or disputing the facts and terms of it. If the respondent doesn't file an answer, "the motion for default" lets the petitioner complete the divorce without the other party's participation - that is Default Divorce.
But the petitioner can't file a motion for default until 20 days after he served notice of the divorce petition on the other spouse. The notice must be served on the other spouse personally in a Florida divorce case, and the server must file proof of service with the circuit court.
Annulment of the Marriage in Florida
The state of Florida recognizes an annulment but does not have an annulment statute. The laws regarding annulment are only established by common law decisions of court proceedings. Annulments are very difficult to establish due to the necessary court proceedings and burdens of proof; this is why some parties may seek divorce even if they have applicable grounds for annulment. Florida law provides that a void marriage can be annulled. A void marriage is a marriage that was always wrong in terms of the law. For example:
- Underage marriage (because Florida law forbids marriage by any party under the age of 18 without the consent of the minor's parent or guardian or court approval);
- Fraud or Duress. The grounds for proving a fraudulent marriage include showing you were convinced to enter the marriage under false pretenses (for example, if your spouse knowingly lied about his ability to have children, it is also considered a fraudulent marriage);
- Mental incapacity of either party;
- Physical disability affecting sexual life;
- Marriage under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
Legal Separation in Florida
Florida has no formal procedure for legal separation in contrast to the majority of states. But the parties can enter into a written agreement for issues such as property division, custody, and support.
Legal separation means that spouses choose not to divorce, perhaps for religious reasons or if they want a trial separation to see if they can resolve their differences. A legal separation order deals with the same issues an order of dissolution does. It can include child custody, visitation, and support; where the parties will live; who will pay the bills; and whether spousal support will be paid.
Same-Sex Divorce in Florida
On January 5, 2015, the temporary stay on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Florida was lifted. Florida became the 36th state that legalized gay marriage, so the same-sex divorce was legalized too.
Nowadays divorcing LGBT couples are treated the same by law as divorcing heterosexual couples, so they meet the same issues and problems about child custody, marital assets division etc which many couples have faced for years.
Military Divorce in Florida
The active duty spouse must be personally served with a summons and a copy of the divorce action, that Florida court could have a jurisdiction over the active military member. In an uncontested dissolution, the active duty spouse may not have to be served as long as he or she signs and files a waiver affidavit acknowledging the divorce action.
By the way, there are some differences in the residency requirements for those who are involved in military divorce: you or your spouse must reside in Florida, or - you or your spouse must be stationed in Florida.
How to Divorce a Spouse in Jail in Florida
Incarceration, surely, is a strong issue can cause severe ruptures in relationships. To divorce a prisoner spouse you should make a list of all the assets you own (both separate and common property). Obtaining ownership proof for your assets is essential because you will need to submit it to the court during your hearing.
Next, you should take the divorce petition forms. File it providing all the information about your spouse’s imprisonment details such as the jail’s location and the term of the sentence. This will help the authorities to find your spouse and serve him/her the divorce papers, which is necessarily the same as in a usual divorce case.
Florida Divorce Filing Fee
Court filing fees are in addition to the cost of using DivorceFiller.com. This cost may vary by county. Please check with your local courthouse to determine the exact amount.
Can a Filing Fee be Waived?
The answer is yes. You may apply for a waiver by filing an application for a civil indigency waiver (well known as “filing fee waiver”). In case you are really unable to pay this fee you should provide information about it (such as like total salary and wages minus deductions, other income, all other liabilities and debts) and then you will only have to pay a one-time administrative fee of $25.
Such conditions are spelled out in Civil Practice and Procedure Code, “Determination of civil indigent status.”
How We Can Help
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We are always in touch to answer the questions you may have.
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