A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Florida
Filing for divorce in Florida can be a stressful and emotional process. Unless you are well versed with state laws and procedures, going through an actual divorce can be intimidating and raise a lot of questions from start to finish.
To minimize your concerns, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with good information to help you understand what will happen along every step of the way. Easing your fears will make it easier to move forward and help you make the right decisions.
Although a divorce can take place in many ways in Florida, there are certain processes and procedures that are common to most all filings.
Here’s some basic information for you to consider as you begin to navigate through your divorce:
- Gathering Important Information
- Decide how you want to proceed with your divorce
- Required Court Forms
- Filing Your Forms with the Court
- Serving Your Spouse
- Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Florida
Gathering your important information
No matter your circumstances, you will benefit from being organized at the outset when it comes to tracking down the financial documentation that you’ll need.
Divorce can be overwhelming, so any steps you can take to save time and reduce stress and anxiety should be a priority for you early in the process.
To help you gain a better understanding of the types of documents and information you’ll need to pull together, I’ve created a great Divorce Information Checklist you can check out here. This will be the perfect resource to make sure you stay on top of the entire divorce process.
How will you proceed with your divorce?
The type of divorce you choose sets the tone for how you will go about reaching a resolution. In short, you need to have a full understanding of the different types of divorce and how they will shape your settlement negotiations.
Here are a few of the most common divorce process options:
You’re probably wondering which one is best. It’s not one size fits all. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
I always find it important to remind people of that because choosing what type of divorce process you’ll go through is one of the biggest choices you’ll have to make. So try to keep an open mind, and think about how each type of divorce will work with regard to your dynamic with your spouse.
Here’s a brief list of the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior variation of a traditional DIY divorce.
Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce service removes the guesswork.
Through a guided questionnaire, you’ll complete your divorce papers while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great way to save time and money if you have an amicable divorce without overly complicated finances.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions.
That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn more: A Guide to the Types of Divorce
Determine What Forms You Will Need to Complete
To officially start your divorce, you will need to file several forms in Florida. You or your attorney must file those forms in the county where you have lived for at least six months.
If you get help from a person in filling out the forms who is not an attorney, they are called a nonlawyer. If a nonlawyer helps you fill out forms, that person must give you a copy of a Disclosure from Nonlawyer, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.900(a), before he or she helps you. A nonlawyer helping you fill out these forms also must put his or her name, address, and telephone number on the bottom of the last page of every form he or she helps you complete.
If you are the one who is filing, you are the petitioner. If you are the one receiving the papers, then you are the respondent.
The first form you must complete is a Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage or a regular Petition for a Dissolution of Marriage.
The simplified form should be used when a husband and wife are filing for a divorce and meet all of the following criteria:
- You and your spouse agree that your marriage cannot be saved.
- You and your spouse have no minor or dependent child(ren) together, the wife does not
have any minor or dependent children born during the marriage, and the wife is not
- You and your spouse have worked out how the two of you will divide the things that you both own (your assets) and who will pay what part of the money you both owe (your
liabilities), and you are both satisfied with this division.
- You are not seeking support (alimony) from your spouse, and vice versa. You are willing to give up your right to trial and appeal.
- You and your spouse are both willing to go into the clerk’s office to sign the petition (not
- necessarily together).
- You and your spouse are both willing to go to the final hearing (at the same time).
If you do not meet the criteria above, you must file a regular petition for dissolution of marriage.
Depending on your situation, there may be several other forms you will need to complete. These may include:
- Dissolution of marriage when dependent children are involved
- Financial affidavits
- Child support guideline worksheets
- Child custody forms
- Answer to a petition for dissolution of marriage
- Petitions for alimony and support
- Parenting plan petition
- Affidavit of Military service
Here’s a great video that explains the process step by step.
Filing Your Documents in Florida
After completing the appropriate forms, you will need to file them with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live and keep a copy for your records.
You must prove to the court that the husband and/or wife has (have) lived in Florida for more than 6 months before filing your petition. Residence can be proved by:
- A valid Florida driver’s license, Florida identification card, or voter registration card issued to one of you at least 6 months prior to filing paperwork
- the testimony of another person who knows that either you or your spouse has resided in Florida for more than 6 months. This person must be available to testify in court, if needed.
- Filing an affidavit. To prove residence by affidavit, use an Affidavit of Corroborating Witness, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.902(i). This form must be signed by a person who knows that either you or your spouse has lived in Florida for more than 6 months before the date that you filed the petition for dissolution of marriage.
It may be signed in the presence of the clerk of the court or in the presence of a notary public, who must affix his or her seal at the proper place on the affidavit.
You must pay the appropriate filing fees to the clerk of the circuit court. If you and your spouse cannot afford to pay the filing fees, you may request a waiver when you file.
You will also need to complete a Family Court Cover Sheet, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.928.
Depending on your jurisdiction, you may either obtain a date and time for a court appearance from the clerk of court, or a date and time will be provided to you by the court.
Serving Your Spouse in Florida
After you file your forms with the court, you must also provide your spouse with those forms so that they can have a chance to respond. When you file your papers, the court clerk will issue a summons which you will then take to the local sheriff’s office or a process server.
You will need to provide information about where to find your spouse at that time, including a home or work address so that your spouse can be personally served.
Your spouse must be personally served, or if they are not home or at work, then the summons and petition can be left at the spouse’s address with any member of the household who is at least 15 years old.
If your spouse can’t be located, you have the option of initiating divorce proceedings through “constructive service of process.” You will need to complete an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry detailing your efforts, swear it as the truth and have it notarized. If the judge accepts the affidavit, then you can file an Affidavit for Service by Publication.
You will then be required to advertise in a local newspaper for four weeks in the county where you filed for divorce. At the end of the four weeks, if there is no response, then the judge will grant your divorce. You will not be able to collect alimony or child support by this method because a spouse must be personally served for the court to have jurisdiction over your spouse.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Florida
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Florida?
If you choose to file for a Simplified Divorce (an uncontested divorce) and you meet all the eligibility requirements, the filing fees set by Florida Statute are $408 plus a $10 summons fee.
Can divorce fees be waived in Florida?
If you can’t afford to pay fees associated with filing for a divorce in Florida, you can fill out an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status, and file it with your petition for dissolution of marriage. You may obtain this form from the clerk and he or she will determine whether you are eligible to have filing fees waived.
Can I file for a divorce online in Florida?
Yes! As a matter of fact, filing for divorce online can be a great way to save time and money.
Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It doesn’t work if you have a contested divorce (you can’t reach agreements with your spouse and need a judge to make decisions).
If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s simply too much on the line to cut corners.
But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself.
I won’t sugarcoat it. The legal system is confusing. There’s a ton of paperwork and mistakes can be costly.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help. That’s where 3StepDivorce comes in. 3StepDivorce makes it easy to complete all your divorce papers and gives you clear step-by-step filing instructions. All you need to do is answer a series of questions, which shouldn’t take more than an hour.
Not all online divorce companies are created equal. In fact, most fail to deliver on their promises. Here’s how 3StepDivorce stands out:
- A+ rating with the BBB
- 100% court approval guarantee or your money back
- Established in 1997 with over 750,000 customers
- Private and secure
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Flexible monthly payment options (get started for as little as $84)
- Unlimited live support by phone and email
- Print your completed forms immediately or have them mailed to you at no additional cost
- Excellent customer reviews (4.6 stars on Trustpilot)
One of the things that really stands out to me is that only 4% of all reviews are 1- or 2-stars. In other words, virtually everyone has a good experience with 3StepDivorce. While their site is a bit dated, it clearly isn’t hurting the customer experience.
If you want to dig deeper, you can read our complete review and comparison of the 10 best online divorce services here.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Florida?
Florida law requires that one or both spouses must have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing for a divorce. You must be able to legally prove residency before a court will hear your divorce case.
Residency can be established by proving that you were either physically present in the state for six months or that you had the intention during that time to make Florida your primary residence.
Only visiting Florida from time to time or maintaining a vacation property are not sufficient grounds to prove residency. You can prove residency by providing a signed least, show proof of a permanent job in Florida, using a Florida address for official matters, getting a Florida driver’s license and registration, or filing your state taxes in Florida.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Florida?
For a Simplified Divorce, a hearing will be scheduled at the earliest possible date according to the court’s schedule. There is a mandatory 20-day waiting period before the hearing can be held, and you and your spouse must appear at the hearing for the divorce to be finalized.
After the judge signs the Final Judgment, you will need to take that document to the Clerk’s Family Law Division where it will be filed and your case will then be considered final.
For contested divorces, especially those where there are several assets or debts to unwind, or child custody and support issues to negotiate could mean that a divorce might take one or even two years or more.
Can I file for divorce in Florida without using a lawyer?
Yes. When you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues related to your divorce, you can file for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage as long as you meet all qualifying criteria. It should only take about 30 days from filing to finalization as long as you can agree on all terms.
Florida State Courts also has a Self-Help Center which can help you navigate the legal system. The self-help website will allow you to access resources to represent yourself in court and also provides a directory of local self-help centers, along with links to free and low-cost legal aid and other related resources.
Although you will still need to print out all your forms and file them at an appropriate court location, using the self-help center will expedite your process. Staff will be able to help you in filling out forms, but they will not be able to act as your lawyer or give you any legal advice.
Are there any special rules regarding divorce in Florida if I am pregnant?
There are no laws in Florida that prevent you from getting a divorce if you are pregnant. You can file for a dissolution of marriage, but if you represent yourself, then you must acknowledge the unborn child by completing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent Minor Children.
Even if another man is the father, Florida law presumes that a husband is the legal father and is the person who has responsibilities and rights regarding the child. This includes visitation, timesharing, participating in the child’s care and providing financial support.
The legal status can be changed by filing a disestablishment of paternity and having the biological father establish paternity.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Florida?
Certain state and federal laws come into play if a member of the military is involved in a divorce in Florida. The grounds for a military divorce are the same as for a civilian divorce. to meet residency requirements, the service member or their spouse must live in or be stationed in Florida.
Once forms have been filed to begin the divorce, copies must be served on the spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. When one spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act that allow them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. It also prevents active duty military members from being held in default for failing to respond to a divorce action.
Federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances if they are single. That amount drops to 50% if the servicemember remarries and has a new family they must support. Child support is determined
using normal Florida child support guidelines and worksheets to determine an appropriate amount that must be paid.
Normal Florida property division laws are used in a military divorce, but the federal government also has put in place the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act that dictates how military retirement benefits are calculated in a divorce. For a spouse to receive any of the service members pay, they must have been married for at least 10 years while the service member was on active duty.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce