Florida Divorce Law Basics
The idea of divorce can make even the toughest of us feel overwhelmed.
You’re not alone in this emotional time. If you’re considering divorce, a good way to get a handle on the situation is to understand Florida divorce laws. Before and after you consult an attorney, knowing about the process can save you from more emotional and mental stress later on.
In Florida, we refer to divorce as Dissolution of Marriage. In order to file for a dissolution of marriage, one or both spouses must have resided for at least 6 months in the state prior to filing the petition.
When you choose to file for divorce, you file a petition for dissolution of marriage. The Petitioner files this document with the circuit court of the county you live in. You must notify your spouse, the respondent, of the petition.
The respondent chooses to file an answer or a counter petition. Florida divorce laws require this answer within the 20 days after they’re notified of the petition. If they fail to file their answer within this time frame, you can file a Motion for Default with the clerk of court.
This allows you to set a final hearing. You must notify the respondent with a Notice of Hearing.
If the respondent denies anything laid out in the petition, you can file a notice for trial. A notice for trial leads to a contested dissolution.
20 days must pass from the date your filed your petition before a court make a final judgment on your dissolution of marriage.
Simplified Dissolution Procedure
Under Florida divorce laws, if you meet the following requirements you can opt for a streamlined dissolution:
- Both spouses agree the marriage is beyond repair
- You have no children together and there is no impending pregnancy
- Both spouses agree on the division of property and debt
- Neither spouse seeks alimony
- Neither spouse requests financial information outside of that laid out in financial affidavits
- Both people give up their right to trial and to appeal
- Both people want to sign the petition at the clerk’s office
- Both people prove willing to attend a final hearing
Once a final hearing date is set both spouses appear together in front of a judge. The judge grants a final judgment on the dissolution of marriage. If the judge grants in favor of dissolving the marriage under the simplified dissolution procedures he signs a Final Judgement of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.
If you and your spouse agree on any or all the issues related to your divorce, you can file a Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage. This comes in two forms depending on the involvement of children.
A judge will settle any issues not agreed upon at the final hearing.
Grounds for Divorce Explained
Florida divorce laws recognize two grounds for dissolution of marriage:
- The marriage is broken beyond repair
- One party is mentally incapacitated (adjudged incapacitated for three years)
If you seek dissolution of marriage because of a broken marriage beyond repair and you are a parent, or your spouse denies the marriage is beyond repair, the following may occur:
- The court orders one or more spouse to consult with a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, religious leader or anyone deemed qualified by the court to conduct counseling.
- The proceedings continue for up to three months so that the couple may reconcile.
- Or, to take any other action that results in the best interest of the parties and any minors involved.
Florida divorce laws recognize the following as grounds to seek an annulment:
- one spouse is under 18 years old and did not obtain parental consent before marriage
- one or both parties acted under the influence of alcohol or drugs lacking the mental ability to consent
- physical incapacity to consummate the marriage
- consent to marry resulted from fraud, deception, duress or force
- mental incapacitation
Once consummated, a marriage is no longer voidable. You can file an annulment as a lawsuit. The process resembles that of dissolution of marriage.
Division of Property Under Florida Divorce Laws
Florida serves as an equitable distribution state. This means you divide your marital assets in debt in a fair manner.
The court considers the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, such as the contributions to the care and education of any children involved when determining property divisions. They’ll also consider things like your economic circumstance, the duration of your marriage, among many other criteria.
For reference, marital property refers to any vested and nonvested benefits, rights and funds acquired during the length of the marriage. This includes retirement, pension, profit-sharing, compensation and insurance programs.
Alimony in Florida Divorce Laws
A court may grant either party alimony. This decision depends on their requested need and the ability of the other spouse to pay this need.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony covers short-term needs of one spouse as they transition from married life.
- Rehabilitative alimony helps one spouse achieve a self-sufficient state as they acquire education, training, or work experience.
- Durational alimony provides a spouse with alimony for a specific amount of time after a short marriage.
- Permanent alimony helps a spouse who loses financial ability to meet their needs as established during a long term or moderate term marriage.
- Lump sum alimony is granted if an award of permanent periodic alimony is justified, the justification for a lump sum award rather than a periodic award is found, specific findings are included in the judgment, and there is money available for such a lump sum award.
Florida divorce laws base custody decisions in the best interest of the child with preference to shared custody this proves to impact the child in a negative manner.
The state determines child support obligation through the Income Shares Model. This model takes into account incomes of both parents and the financial contributions of each parent
Closing Words On Florida Divorce Laws
We know that this time in your life is stressful. Seeking out an attorney to help you with the process and restore balance to your life makes all the difference in divorce proceedings.
If you’re considering divorce and would like your specific questions answered, contact us today.