The divorce process is stressful enough as is; however, it becomes even more complicated when you realize that every state has its own requirements and processes. In the state of Florida, you have to be living in the state for a set period of time before you can file for divorce.
How else is Florida different? The experienced Tampa family lawyers of Quinn & Lynch, P.A., explain how to file for divorce in Florida step by step, breaking down complex legal terms along the way.
1. Make Sure You Meet Florida Residency Requirements
Either you or your spouse must reside in Florida for at least 6 months before you can legally file for divorce. Residency is established by providing evidence that you have lived in Florida for the past 6 months and had the intention of making Florida your primary residence during that time. Simply visiting or owning a vacation home is not enough to file for divorce in the state.
2. Choose Between a Simplified or Regular Dissolution of Marriage
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage is when both spouses agree to dissolve the marriage and the following things are true:
- You have no children or adopted children under the age of 18
- Neither you nor your spouse is pregnant
- You and your spouse are not seeking alimony
- You and your spouse agree on how all assets and liabilities will be split
- Both you and your spouse agree the marriage is irreparable
You and your spouse can go to the courthouse together or individually with your affairs separated and sign the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage document with the county clerk. This form will have to be notarized – most courthouses have a notary present who can sign for a small fee.
It is important to note that in a simplified dissolution of marriage, a couple can only divide things that are inanimate, such as property or cars. When filing in this way, the couple forfeits the right to a trial and appeal.
To complete a simplified dissolution of marriage, both you and your spouse must agree to attend a final hearing in front of a judge to sign the final divorce decree.
Regular Dissolution of Marriage
A Regular Dissolution of Marriage is for cases in which:
- Both spouses do not agree on how assets should be split
- You and your spouse have children under 18 together and need to resolve issues of custody and child support
In a regular dissolution of marriage case, you would serve the divorce papers to your spouse, a process described below in step #4.
3. Organize & File Your Paperwork
To file for divorce in Florida, you will need to gather the necessary affidavits. An affidavit is a written statement that lays out the facts of your case and can be used as evidence in court.
There are three affidavits that must be filed along with the dissolution of marriage paperwork for a divorce in Florida:
- Social Security Affidavit – Both parties must provide their social security numbers in order for each party to subpoena financial and employment records without intervention by the court.
- Non-military / Military Affidavit – This identifies whether the respondent is in the military or armed forces.
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit – This is used in all cases that involve children under the age of 18. Even if custody, time-sharing, or visitation are not a factor in the dispute, this form must be completed.
4. Serve the Divorce Papers
Filing for a regular dissolution of marriage requires you (the petitioner) to serve your spouse (the respondent). If your spouse is not served correctly, your case could be dismissed, and you’ll have to start over.
The divorce papers need to be served via a private process service (a courier service that only handles legal documents such as warrants or subpoenas) or sheriff (depending on if the county provides this service) to the respondent. The respondent is then responsible for filing paperwork of their own.
If you can’t locate your spouse to serve them the divorce papers, you will have to do what is called “constructive service”. This involves placing an ad in the local newspaper stating your spouse is being served. The ad will run for 30 days, and there is typically a fee associated with this service. A county clerk can assist you if need be.
5. Document Your Finances
In addition to affidavits listed above, there is a financial affidavit that needs to be completed within 45 days of service. You can get the financial affidavit form from your circuit clerk’s office. Regardless of whether you and your spouse share property, the following assets and liabilities will need to be provided:
- Income Statement
- Tax returns
- List of assets, such as real estate holdings
- Stocks and bonds
- List of debts
- Credit card statements
- Bank statements
- Personal financial statements
- Any other relevant financial documents the court or your spouse should know about prior to the divorce
Another piece of financial documentation you will want to create is an average monthly household expenditures list. This will help the court determine child support payments, as well as whether either spouse needs alimony from the other.
Organizing all of this paperwork can be overwhelming, so it’s important to remember your mental health when you’re filing for divorce. Seeing a therapist has many benefits and can provide you with the tools you need to work through your stress.