It’s probably taken a long time to get here, but you’ve finally decided: you’re going to file for divorce. Unfortunately, this decision is really just the beginning of your journey, and you probably have a ton of questions. What do I need to do first? What is the divorce process like? How long will it take? How can I prepare?
Depending on your particular situation, your divorce may be relatively easy… or it might be difficult. But whatever the specifics are for you, consulting with an experienced divorce attorney will make the entire process smoother and easier. Why? Because while technically you can handle a divorce on your own, a knowledgeable legal representative will be able to give you invaluable advice that is tailored specifically for you.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t general information about divorcing in Florida that is helpful to everyone, though. With that in mind, here are 5 things you should know about filing for divorce in the Sunshine State.
1. You will have to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. In order to file for divorce, at least one spouse must live in Florida for at least six months before petitioning. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the first form you will have to fill out. This is the form that says you are seeking a divorce from your spouse.
If you are the one filling out the form, you are the petitioner and your spouse is the respondent. You will file the petition in the circuit court of the county where you or your spouse lives. Depending on your circumstances, the judge may be able to decide on a final judgment in as little as 20 days if the necessary paperwork is complete.
2. Florida does not have fault-based divorce. If you want to get a divorce in Florida, all you have to say is that the divorce is based on irreconcilable differences or that one of the spouses has been mentally incapacitated for three years. You don’t have to explain what led to the two of you getting a divorce or prove that your spouse is at fault. In a fault divorce, one spouse can blame the failure of the marriage on something the other spouse did, such as infidelity, abandonment, drug abuse, or a criminal conviction.
If some kind of “fault” is present in a Florida divorce, the court may take it into consideration when deciding alimony, parental responsibility, or division of assets.
3. You may qualify for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. All divorces are different, but if you and your spouse meet a few specific requirements, you may be able to get a simplified dissolution of marriage. What are these requirements?
- You and your spouse must not have any children under 18
- Neither one of you can seek alimony
- You must both agree on property division
If all of these things are true, you can file a simplified dissolution of marriage. Remember, though – while this may speed up your divorce process, you are also giving up some of your rights. You won’t be able to ask for financial documents or cross examine your spouse, and you will have to sign a settlement agreement. Still, this may be a viable option if you and your spouse happen to agree on everything.
4. You will have to disclose your finances. Within 45 days of serving your spouse the petition for dissolution of marriage, you are required to produce a signed and completed financial affidavit that contains all of your financial information. You will have to disclose your:
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Personal financial statements
- Any documentation that has pertinent financial information
5. Florida is an equitable distribution state. Since Florida is a no-fault divorce state, the courts will distribute the marital property – possessions, house, income, marital debt – fairly, and will begin the divorce proceedings assuming that the property will be divided equally.
As mentioned above, if your spouse is at fault for the divorce, this can be a factor that the court uses when distributing the marital property. The court may also look at the finances of both spouses, the length of the marriage, each spouse’s individual contributions to the home and their children, and what would be in the best interests of the children. However, if you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement that you are both happy with, the court won’t have to divide the property for you.
A divorce can be an emotional time for everyone, but it doesn’t have to be. Contact an experienced and affordable Florida divorce lawyer today to get the professional advice you need to protect yourself and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.