Florida Divorce: Basics and Overview
This is a quick and easy guide to the basics of the uncontested divorce process in Florida.
- Florida’s residency requirement for divorce: In order to get divorced in Florida, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months immediately before you file your divorce papers. (Fla. Stat. § 61.021 (2022).)
- No-fault grounds for divorce in Florida: Florida allows only “no-fault” divorce. When you file for divorce, you don’t claim—and don’t have to prove—that your spouse was to blame for the end of your marriage. The most common legal reason (or “ground”) for divorce in Florida is that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning there’s no reasonable prospect of fixing it. The only other no-fault divorce ground is that your spouse has been mentally incapacitated for at least three years under a court judgment. (Fla. Stat. § 61.052 (2022).)
- Requirements for uncontested divorce: Your divorce will be considered uncontested if you and your spouse agree that your marriage is irretrievably broken and have signed a written marital settlement agreement that resolves all of the issues in your divorce. Florida also has a special, streamlined procedure for uncontested divorce known as a “simplified dissolution of marriage,” but you must meet certain requirements, including no minor children and no request for alimony. (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.105 (2022).)
- Timeline for uncontested divorce in Florida: Florida has a minimum 20-day waiting period between the time you file your divorce papers and when your divorce may be final. Typically, however, uncontested divorces take about two to four months to complete. Simplified divorces may take as little as 30 days.
- Separation requirements for divorce in Florida? Florida doesn’t require that you be separated from your spouse for any period of time before you may file for divorce.
- Legal terms used in Florida divorce cases: In Florida, the legal term for divorce is “dissolution of marriage.” The spouse who files the initial divorce papers is called the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is the “respondent.”
- Where to file for divorce in Florida: You should file your divorce papers with the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where you and your spouse last lived together as a married couple. (Fla. Stat. § 47.011 (2022).)
- Main papers to file in uncontested divorce: Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Marital Settlement Agreement, Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (for respondent), Family Law Financial Affidavit, and Final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. Many of these forms have different versions for different circumstances, and additional forms are required when you have minor children. (Florida 3StepDivorce™ provides the necessary Florida forms for your situation.)
- Requirements for serving a spouse with divorce papers: The respondent may agree to accept the divorce papers from the petitioner by signing an “Answer and Waiver of Service” in the presence of a notary. Otherwise, the petitioner usually must arrange with the local sheriff’s office to have the divorce papers served on the respondent. (Fla. Stat. § 48.021 (2022).) There are other methods of service available when a spouse is missing and can’t be found.
- Florida Child Support Guidelines: Like all states, Florida has guidelines for determining the right amount of child support. Whether the parents agree to an amount of child support or a judge makes a decision on the issue, the level of support may not be 5% more or less than the amount under the guidelines unless the judge has found (and explains why) ordering the guideline amount would be “unjust or inappropriate” under the circumstances. (Fla. Stat. § 61.30 (2022).) Florida provides a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., form 12.903(e)) that parents and judges must use for calculating child support.
- Florida rules on child custody. Whether parents have agreed on custody-related issues for their children or a judge has to decide for them, Florida child custody laws require that the parenting plan serves the children’s best interests.
- Florida rules on property division: Like most states, Florida follows the “equitable distribution” rule for dividing marital property and allocating marital debts between the spouses in a divorce. That means that judges will base their decisions on what’s fair under the particular circumstances of each case. Although this won’t necessarily result in a 50-50 split (as in “community property” states such as California and Texas), judges must begin with the assumption that the division should be equal, unless there’s a reason for an unequal distribution based on a number of factors spelled out in the law. (Fla. Stat. § 61.075 (2022).) As with other issues in a divorce, couples may reach their own agreement on how to divide their property and debts.
- Parenting class requirements: In Florida, all divorcing couples with minor children must complete an approved, four-hour Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. The petitioner must take the course within 45 days after filing the initial paperwork, and the respondent must take it within 45 days after being served with the petition. (Fla. Stat. § 61.21 (2022).)
- Financial disclosure requirements in Florida: Most divorcing couples in Florida must exchange certain financial information with each other, including tax returns, recent pay stubs, loan applications, property deeds, and account statements. They must also exchange and file with the court a financial affidavit. These requirements don’t apply in simplified dissolution proceedings or cases when a missing spouse didn’t file any response after the divorce papers were served by publishing a notice in the newspaper. (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.285 (2022).)
- Hearing requirements to finalize divorce in Florida: You’ll need to schedule and attend a hearing to finalize your uncontested divorce in Florida. At the hearing, you’ll need to bring proof that you meet Florida’s residency requirement for divorce (such as a Florida driver’s license, voter registration card, or a sworn statement from a witness). The judge will review your paperwork and may ask you some questions before signing your dissolution judgment.
- Default divorce in Florida: If your spouse doesn’t file any response to your dissolution petition, you may ask for a default divorce by filing a Motion for Default (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., Form 12.922(a)) and Default (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., Form 12.922(b)). Depending on local court rules, you may or may not have to attend a court hearing on your default divorce. Either way, a judge will review your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will grant your final divorce. (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.500 (2022).) However, if you had to serve your spouse by publication, there could be limits on what the judge may order as part of your final dissolution judgment.
- Florida laws and rules on divorce: Florida Statutes, Chapter 61; Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure. Other statutes and rules governing civil procedure may also apply in dissolution proceedings.
- Divorce records: You may request your Florida divorce records (including the divorce certificate, dissolution decree, and case file) from the court clerk’s office in the circuit court that handled your divorce. You can generally request the records online, in person, or by mail. Learn more about how to find Florida divorce records.