Everything You Need to Know About Divorce in Florida
In the state of Florida, divorce is referred to as dissolution of marriage. There are some general requirements to be eligible. Firstly, one member of marriage must be a resident of Florida for at least six months before filing. Once you are ready to file, you must fill out a ‘Petition for Dissolution of Marriage’ at your circuit court. This must be located in the county where the person filing lives. Upon filing this form, the other spouse must be made aware of the petition. They will have 20 days to file an answer to the petition (unless this delay would result in an injustice).
If 20 days have passed without answer from the respondent, the one filing for divorce can file for a motion for default. They do this by going to the clerk of court and filling out the required forms, and setting a final hearing. And finally, the petitioner must notify the other spouse of the divorce hearing with a ‘Notice of Hearing’.
At this point, the divorce can go one of two ways. If the other spouse (Respondent) disagrees or denies with the petition, they must file a notice for trial. This is known as a contested divorce, and you should consider contacting an experienced divorce attorney. On the other hand, if the respondent agrees with the divorce, you have an uncontested divorce. As long as all of the right forms have been filed and processed, the petitioner may set a final hearing and notify the respondent.
In Florida, you may qualify for a simplified dissolution if all of these requirements are met:
- Both partners mutually agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- The wife isn’t pregnant and there are no children/dependents.
- Both partners have agreed on the division of property/debts.
- Neither partner is requesting alimony.
- Neither partner is requesting financial information other than the court-approved financial affidavits.
- Both partners will give up their rights to trial/appeal.
- Each partner will go to the clerk of court’s office and sign the petition.
- Both partners will attend the final hearing.
Upon filing and submitting the required documents to the clerk of court, both parties will receive the date and time for their court appearance. As long as both members appear together for the hearing and everything is in order, they judge may grant the final judgement for dissolving the marriage. Once the judge signs a Final Judgement of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, the marriage is over.
Both spouses must appear together before the judge at this hearing. At that time, if all papers are in order, the judge may grant a final judgment dissolving the marriage under the simplified dissolution of marriage procedures by signing a Final Judgment of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage which needs to be provided by the parties to the divorce.
Terms of the Divorce
There are other aspects to consider when filing for divorce, and it’s important that you know what you want out of the divorce. For example, will the wife plan on changing her last name back to her maiden name? If so, she must request this when filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Even if both partners agree on all conditions of the divorce, they should file a Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage (with Dependent or Minor Children – if there are children). This will help speed up the legal process and keep things simple.
Florida law provides two grounds for a dissolution of marriage:
- 1. The marriage is irretrievably broken.
- 2. One of the spouses is mentally incapacitated for more than 3 years.
The state of Florida is an equitable distribution state, and certain statutes require that marital assets/debts be distributed in a fair/equal manner. Florida law also takes into consideration various factors such as child support, alimony awards, and other marital responsibilities.
The court will consider the following factors when making determinations for property division:
- Each partners contributions and sacrifices towards the marriage, such as education, home-caring, child care, etc.
- Each partners economic circumstances
- The length of the marriage
- Any contribution from one spouse towards the career/education of the other
- The desire to retain an asset such as business intact, and free from any claim by the other partner
- The contributions from each partner towards the marital and non-marital assets
- The desire to retain the home for the sake of a dependent child
- Any intentional acts of dissipation, waste, or destruction of marital assets after filing a petition, or within two years prior to filing
- Any and all other factors considered necessary to do equity and justice for both partners
- Vested and non-vested benefits, funds, pensions, retirement plans, insurance plans, etc, that are classified as marital property and subject to distribution
Florida law does not include any definitions for annulment in their statutes, so this decision is made by looking at previous court rulings.
The court may grant an annulment under certain conditions, including:
- One (or both) of the spouses involved was under the age of consent (18) and did not receive consent from their legal guardian.
- One (or both) of the spouses were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the marriage, and did not have the mental ability to provide legal consent.
- The marriage was obtained through means of deceit, force, fraud, or other illegal means.
- Physical inability to consummate the marriage.
- Mental incapacity.
In Florida, there are four categories of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony. The court may order periodic payments, lump-sum payments, or both.
It’s important to consider the length of the marriage. Any marriage that has lasted less than 7 years is a short-term marriage. If the marriage has lasted between 7 years and 17 years, then it is a moderate-term marriage. And finally, any marriage that has lasted more than 17 years is a long-term marriage.
In the state of Florida, either partner of the marriage can request alimony. And it’s based on the requesting party’s need versus the other party’s ability to pay. There are four types of alimony arrangements, and they are:
To assist the spouse in making the transition back to being independent, the court may award ‘bridge-the-gap’ alimony. It is designed to provide support for legitimate identifiable short-term needs. In this alimony arrangement, the award cannot last more than two years and the duration cannot be modified.
The primary purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help the requesting spouse gain self-sufficiency. By developing new skills, or redeveloping existing skills through education, training, or work experience to help build credentials, the spouse achieves self-sufficiency. In this arrangement, a court requires the order to include a well-defined plan. It is possible to modify this arrangement if there is a significant change in the circumstances. This could include the plan being completed early, or the receiving party not following the plan.
When a spouse lacks the financial ability to pay for their needs and necessities (as they were throughout the marriage), a judge may grant permanent alimony. This occurs most often for a long-duration marriage, and sometimes a moderate-duration marriage under certain conditions. The court rarely awards it for a short-duration marriage, and this requires an exceptional circumstance. Modification/termination is possible if circumstances change. For example, as a supportive and co-habitative relationship between the spouse and someone not related by blood.
When permanent alimony isn’t appropriate, the court may award durational alimony. The main goal is to provide the receiving partner with financial assistance for a duration of time following a short to moderate marriage. Under this arrangement, there may be modifications to the amount of the award. Typically, the court will not modify the terms unless there are exceptional circumstances. And the award length can not extend the length of the marriage.
When the court determines that one spouse has a need for alimony, and the other spouse is able to pay, they will review various factors that will decide the appropriate arrangement and amount of alimony. These factors are:
- The length of the marriage.
- The standard of living throughout the marriage.
- Age and physical/emotional condition of both members
- Each member’s financial resources (this includes all marital and non-marital assets/liabilities)
- Earning abilities of each partner, which includes education, skills, credentials, and the time it would take to acquire these assets
- Contributions made by each partner towards the marriage, which includes home services, child care, education, and career building
- If there are any children – the roles each partner will play in regards to their child
- Taxation externalities to both partners based on a particular alimony award
- Income sources available to each partner, which includes investments and assets held by said partner
- All other factors that would contribute to equity and justice between the partners.
Additional Details About Alimony Arrangements
- All forms of alimony will end upon the death of either party involved in the marriage. Or the remarriage of the person receiving alimony.
- The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the relevant circumstances when deciding on the amount for alimony, if any, to give
- If a court finds it necessary, it may order the paying spouse to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy, bond, or some other means of security for the alimony award.
- In order to receive alimony, the original petition or counter petition must contain an alimony request.
When The Marriage Involves Children
The process of filing for dissolution of marriage is not as simple when the marriage involves a child. If one party believes the marriage is irretrievably broken and the other party denies this, the court may decide any of the following:
- Send one or both partners to meet with a marriage counselor, priest/rabbi, psychologist, or someone qualified by the court, and acceptable to both ordered parties.
- Extend the proceedings for a reasonable amount of time no longer than 3 months, to give parties time to reconcile.
- Take any actions that are in the best interests of children.
In the state of Florida, the court uses the Income Shares Model when determining child support obligations. This model uses the incomes of both parents, and it takes into consideration how much money each parent contributes.
Under certain circumstances, a child support order will include a health insurance provision for any children that are minors. If health insurance is reasonable in cost, this may be a requirement. The cost of health insurance will not exceed 5% of the gross income of the parent purchasing it. The court may also require the parent responsible for child support to purchase a life insurance policy (or some other form of security) to protect the child support order. See more about time-sharing and child custody