How to File For Divorce in Florida
In Florida, spouses may decide to dissolve their union through a divorce, which could arise from various factors such as infidelity, domestic abuse, and finances. The dissolution of marriage under the rule of law occurs in a court, and the settlement mostly involves child support, asset division, alimony, child custody, and parenting time. According to the National Center for Health Statistics in 2018, Florida's state had a 7.3 divorce rate per 1,000 total population, which was lower than the rate from 2015 to 2017.
When a divorce is filed in Florida, the time it takes to finalize, it depends on whether the case is contested. An uncontested case means both parties are on the same page regarding the divorce settlements, such as alimony, debts, property division, child support, and visitation, which may take up to a month to finalize. If the matter is contested, then it can take as long as six months, and if it's a county where the courts are busy, participating parties should prepare for a year or more. On the other hand, settlement out of court is possible with the help of a mediator. Overall, couples intending to file a divorce must study the state statute to understand any actions the court might take or other options available.
Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Florida?
For spouses interested in getting a divorce, the decision must meet the criteria for marriage dissolution, according to Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes. Disunion is granted when the marriage proves to be irretrievably broken, or one of the parties has a mental illness. However, the state of Florida does not allow the use of fault as a necessary ground for divorce. It is only viable in the division of assets and alimony assigned in a court of law. Parties can only state that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which means the relationship is damaged beyond reconciliation. Couples must prove to have been residents of Florida for the past six months and must also present a valid marriage certificate.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?
Seasoned divorce attorneys are required in divorce cases, and they help by providing relevant counsel involving the divorce laws, thereby guiding the client through the process. Nevertheless, lawyers may not be consulted if there are no assets or children involved. However, based on the divorce law in Florida, an attorney will interpret the statutes, file the proper paperwork, explain the rights, and resolve the matter in the client's favor in a quick duration.
How do I Get Started in a Divorce in Florida?
Suing for divorce does not always involve lawyers as long as both parties agree to the terms of the divorce. Once the two sides are in unison in getting a divorce, the divorce papers must be signed.The steps involved in starting a divorce in Florida are:
- Petition Filing: Couples filing for divorce will first have to complete the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form and a summons filed at the court. A partner pushing the motion for the divorce will be regarded as the petitioner while the other partner is the respondent.
- Filing an Answer: A spouse that has been served a summons has 20 days from the time they receive the summons to file an answer. The response should be submitted at the Clerk of Circuit Court in the county where the petition originated. The spouse should also keep copies of the documented answer.
- Filing Other Paperwork: These include financial affidavit, child support guidelines, and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction And Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) affidavit if minors are involved.
- Discovery: Discovery in divorce processing in Florida involves the mandatory disclosure of the two sides' assets and finances. In some cases, revealing the couple's financial stance determines if they can settle on a mutual agreement or appear before the court. Discovery should be made within 45 days from when the petition was filed. It can be extended upon request by any of the couple concerned.
- Meditation: Mediation is an option to settle divorce cases out of court by involving a third party known as the mediator. The mediator will be in a neutral position to aid communications to help both parties solve their disputes. However, the burden of making the decision lies on the couples and not the mediator. The court can also order mediation, and when issues between the married couples remain unresolved, they may return to the court to hear the judge's decision.
- Parenting Plans: Parenting plans are required when filing a divorce in Florida when children are involved. The plan must give details on how each parent chooses to spend time with the child or children. The spouses must talk to each other on how they intend to share their time and parental responsibilities. Worthy of note is, all the areas of childcare must be covered in the parenting plan, which will be submitted to the court. The plan stays upon approval from the court. If the couple is unable to agree on a plan, the court may design a parenting plan.
- Trial: A divorce case may be heard in court when it is contested and when the couple did not come to a uniform decision after meditation. The judge usually hears cases involving the dissolution of marriages in Florida, and the jury will not be included. The participating parties will be permitted to present evidence that will be cross-examined. Judgment at the court calls for sharing of properties, attorney fees, alimony, child support, and parenting plan.
How to File for Divorce in Florida Without a Lawyer?
In Florida, a couple who wishes to represent themselves when filing a divorce can go through the process of the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. The Simplified Dissolution of Marriage hastens the divorce process when the divorce is uncontested, and the finalization takes about one month. To be eligible for this divorce process in the State of Florida, the couple must not have children who are minors between them, the wife must not be pregnant at the time of filing the divorce, and there must be no alimony. If these requirements are not met, the risk involved in engaging in a divorce without a lawyer will increase. Any of the participating parties may stand a chance of losing a considerable part of essential assets or even lose child custody rights forever if they do not know their rights.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Does Florida Divorce Mediation Work?
Divorce mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party (mediator) with training helps divorcing couples by encouraging and facilitating a resolution on issues related to their separation or divorce. Most couples choose this option because it helps them avoid financial and emotional costs that come from employing the services of lawyers and engaging in litigation. It is informal. The aim is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that can be put in writing, signed, filed, and submitted to the court with both parties' consent as the decision making authority belongs to the couple.
The court may mandate mediation in a divorce case to resolve and agree on contended issues between couples. A court-ordered mediation, as stated in the Florida Statutes, is done by a Florida Supreme Court certified mediator, who follows the rules and statutes that require mediators to remain neutral, work for the mutual benefit of both parties, and not force them into an agreement. All statements made during mediation are confidential, and it gives the parties involved more power over how the case is resolved. The Florida Statutes section 44.108(2) stipulates the cost of mediation, and it comes at a reduced rate for couples with a combined annual income under $100,000. The fee per session for couples whose combined annual income ranges between $50000 and $100000 is $120 per party, while it costs $60 per party for those with combined annual income less than $50000. A financial affidavit is required to establish fees. Fees are payable to the Clerk of Court in the county where the case was filed. Couples with combined income higher than $100,000 must select a private mediator and directly pay the agreed fee to the mediator.
When the court-ordered mediation is sent to the parties via mail, a list of family mediators certified and under contract with the Florida Supreme Court comes with it. Based on the court order, the parties need to complete the mediation in a stipulated number of days, and when the divorce process results in a settlement agreement, it is filed with the case with copies given to both parties. The couples can also submit a request for a hearing.
How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Florida?
Couples involved in a divorce process usually wish to get it done as quickly as possible and move on with their life, but based on the statutes that govern the process and the Florida family law courts, they must go through some steps. A typical divorce case in court takes between 12 and 18 months to finalize, although, with mediation as an alternative to litigation, it can be concluded in three months. Once the judge agrees to the marital settlement from the process, the judge gives the divorce judgment in 30 days. If both parties involved do not seek a modification to the agreement, it proceeds to a waiting period known as 'nisi period.' Depending on the type of divorce, if it is uncontested, the waiting period lasts 120 days, and after which, the divorce is finalized automatically. The waiting period helps the parties involved to think over the agreement.
Are Divorce Records Public in Florida?
Divorce records in Florida are public records and are available through the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The dissolution of a marriage certificate is issued with some information from the final judgment. The full statement can be obtained from the Clerk of Circuit Court in the county where the divorce case took place. Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, which is known as the Public Records Act, states that all state, county, and municipal records are open to all for inspection and copying. All agencies in charge of records should grant access to divorce records as long as the requirements are met. That said, sealed and expunged divorce records can only be accessed on permission by the court.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How do I Get Florida Divorce Records?
Citizens of Florida can obtain divorce records from the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics in person or by mail. A completed application form is required with the appropriate fee of $5 and $10 for expedited service, which is payable with cash, check, money order, or credit cards to order a divorce record by mail. It takes between three to five working days to access documents from 1970 to date, while those before 1970 may require more days. Some details needed when mailing in the written request include:
- Full name of the couple as it appears on the record
- Date and county where the dissolution was granted
- Full name of the requestor
- The mailing address of the requestor
- Relationship of the requestor to the person on the record
- Signature of requestor
The written request alongside the completed application form and proof of payment should be mailed to:
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 210
Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042
Florida divorce records can as well be obtained in person by visiting the Bureau of Vital Statistics Office. Interested persons are required to download and fill the Application for Dissolution of Marriage form, which will be presented at the office. A non-refundable fee of $5 will be paid for the search to be conducted. Extra certified copies requested will attract $4. However, when the year of the divorce is unknown, the Bureau of Vital Statistics Office may charge between $2 to $50 to search records of each year. When the divorce document is retrieved immediately, a rush fee of $10 will be required. The Bureau of Vital Statistics Office is located at:
1217 N Pearl Street,
Jacksonville, FL 32202
The Bureau of Vital Statistics Office is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm from Monday to Friday.