In Florida, divorce is called a dissolution of marriage. For any married couple, this will sever the marital relationship, and divide assets and debts. If one spouse cannot be self-supporting, the issue of alimony may arise. Child custody and support will be decided if there are children.
To file for dissolution in Florida, you or your spouse must be a resident of Florida for at least six months. If your spouse is a Florida resident, you will file in the Circuit Court of the county where your spouse lives. If your spouse does not live in Florida, file in the county where you live.
Florida offers a Simplified Dissolution Procedure, which may be completed in as little as three weeks (depending upon the court’s docket backlog). The simplified procedure is available if:
- there are no minor or dependent children,
- the wife is not pregnant,
- you and your spouse agree on the property and debt division, and
- you and your spouse will both sign the court papers and attend the final court hearing.
You begin by filing either a Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage or a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the Circuit Court. In the simplified procedure, or an uncontested divorce procedure if you have children), you, and maybe your spouse, will be need to attend a court hearing. The judge will ask some questions, to be sure you understand and agree to everything, and will enter either a Final Judgment Dissolving Marriage Under Simplified Procedure or a Final Judgment Dissolving Marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution and sever the marital relationship. Florida has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for dissolution. You need to state in the Petition that: “The marriage between the parties is irretrievably broken,” or “The Respondent is mentally incompetent.” These are the only grounds for dissolution in Florida.
Property Division in Florida
In dividing property and debts, each party may to keep his or her non-marital property, which is:
- property acquired, and liabilities incurred, prior to the marriage, and in exchange for such assets and liabilities;
- property acquired by inheritance or non-spousal gift, or in exchange for such assets;
- income from nonmarital (unless treated by the parties as a marital asset);
- assets and debts designated as non-marital by valid written agreement, or acquired in exchange for such assets and liabilities; and
- any liability incurred by one spouse signing the name of the other spouse.
If the judge must divide the property, he or she will begin with the assumption of equal distribution, but may consider:
- the contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker,
- the economic circumstances of the parties,
- the duration of the marriage,
- any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party,
- the contribution of one spouse to the career or educational opportunity of the other,
- the desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other,
- each party’s contribution to the acquisition, production of income, or improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both marital and nonmarital assets,
- the desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child, or any other party, when it would be equitable and financially feasible,
- the intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition, and
- any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Alimony in Florida
Absent an agreement between the parties, in a request for alimony the court will first determine (1) whether the party seeking alimony has a need for alimony, and (2) whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony. In practice, alimony is not typically awarded unless the parties have been married for at least ten years. If it is determined that alimony is appropriate, the judge will decide the amount and duration of alimony by considering the following factors:
- the standard of living established during the marriage,
- the duration of the marriage,
- the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party,
- the financial resources of each party,
- each party’s earning capacity, educational level, vocational skills, and employability and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment,
- the contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party,
- the responsibility of each party to any minor children,
- the tax treatment to both parties of any alimony award,
- all sources of income available to either party, and
- any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Child Custody in Florida
The terms parental responsibility, parenting time, and time-sharing are now used in Florida. According to Florida child custody laws, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on custody, the judge will make a decision based upon the following factors:
- the ability of each parent to facilitate a continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required,
- the anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the dissolution,
- each party’s capacity to give priority to the needs of the child,
- the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity,
- the geographic viability of the parenting plan,
- the moral fitness of the parents,
- the mental and physical health of the parents,
- the home, school, and community record of the child,
- the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference,
- each party’s awareness of circumstances of the child, including the child’s friends, teachers, medical providers, daily activities, and favorite things,
- each party’s capacity and disposition to provide a consistent routine for the child,
- each party’s capacity to communicate with the other parent on matters regarding the child, and willingness to adopt a unified front when dealing with the child,
- evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, abandonment or neglect,
- evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, abandonment or neglect,
- the parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before and during the pending litigation,
- each party’s disposition to be involved in the child’s school and activities,
- each party’s disposition to maintain a substance-free environment for the child,
- each party’s disposition to protect the child from the litigation,
- the developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs, and
- any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan.
Child Support in Florida
The Florida child support guidelines and tables are contained in Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes, which may be available from your court clerk, and is also available from the Florida Senate’s website.
LegalZoom’s Online Divorce service is an inexpensive way to file for divorce if you and your spouse agree on most major issues. Otherwise, you can talk to an attorney for advice or help filing for divorce through the LegalZoom personal legal plan.