Marriage is beautiful, but not every bond ends happily ever after. As humans, we have to come to terms with our differences and fatal flaws. Sometimes, those same things prove big enough to undo what looked like a strong, lifelong connection between two people.
According to Statista, Florida’s divorce rate has fallen by more than 50% in the past 30 years. It’s down to about three households per 1000 inhabitants. Despite this reduction, divorces still offer married couples an opportunity to split amicably and get on with their lives as best as possible.
However, this is easier said than done. Filing for divorce in Florida is a more involved process than others might think. So, we’re here to break it down for you.
The first thing you need to know is that Florida uses the No-Fault divorce process. This process permits either party (you or your spouse) to file for divorce without proving any kind of fault. You will, however, need to show that your marriage is beyond repair or that your spouse has been mentally unfit to raise a family for at least three years.
When you’re ready, you’ll have to file a divorce petition. In Florida, we use two kinds of petitions: simplified petitions & regular petitions, and this petition gets the ball rolling.
Step 1 – Prepare Your Petition
There are two types of divorces – contested and uncontested – and the one you’re having will determine which kind of petition you’ll file. Uncontested divorces occur when both parties request the dissolution of their marriage. On the other hand, contested divorces arise when you and your spouse can not or will not agree on the division of their marital property, their marital debts or the resolution of issues about their children.
You can use a regular petition for contested and uncontested cases, whereas simplified petitions can only be filed for uncontested divorces. In addition, a party can file a petition by themselves, but simplified petitions require both parties’ consent. Thus, making simplified petitions only valid for uncontested divorces.
Step 2 – Prepare Your Summons for the Florida Court Clerk
The next step is preparing your summons – a document that gives your process server the ability to service your spouse, the defendant in this case. In Florida, we mainly use three popular service methods:
- Personal service
- Service via email, mail or hand delivery
- Constructive service – this is basically service by publication, e.g. in a newspaper
Step 3 – Prepare Your Affidavits
When you file for divorce in the state of Florida, you must present the following affidavits:
- Your Social Security Affidavit – this affidavit allows each party to subpoena financial and employment records without unnecessary delay.
- Non-Military/Military Affidavit – this affidavit explains whether either of the respondents is in the military or not.
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit – according to DivorceHow, this affidavit “will be used in any case involving the custody, time-sharing, or visitation of any minor child(ren). You must complete this affidavit even if the minors’ time-sharing, visitation, or custody are not in dispute.”
Step 4 – Prepare the Financial Affidavits
Divorce laws in Florida require that both parties file a financial affidavit within 45 days of being served. This document must be filed even if both parties own no property whatsoever. This affidavit will disclose all parties’ assets and liabilities. To make this process smoother, we recommend that you bring the following documents:
- Income Statement
- Tax returns
- List of assets, such as real estate holdings
- List of debts
- Credit card statements
- Bank statements
- Personal financial statements
Step 5 – Contested Items
A divorce usually boils down to who gets what, which in turn usually boils down to assets, liabilities and your kids. In Florida, marital assets are any debts or assets that both parties amassed during their marriage. Anything before that is considered a non-marital asset – so long as it is kept separate from the marital property.
If you file for a simplified dissolution of marriage, you need a marital settlement. This settlement will include bank accounts, stocks, and more. Regarding kids, we extinguish all resources to ensure both parties resolve this matter amicably. However, in special circumstances – such as having a child or children with special needs – either party can use the Motion to Deviate from Child Support Guidelines.
Step 6 – Final Steps
Once your forms are complete, you provide them and all other supplementary documents to the circuit court where you live. You’ll have to notarize your petition before it’s filed, and in Florida, a simple divorce filing fee is $408 plus a $10 summons fee. Once you’ve done this, you can serve the petition to the defendant. Once the petition’s been served, you can set a hearing before a judge.
Are you a Florida resident and currently considering a divorce? Would you like legal counsel before going any further? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Bergman Family Law.