Divorce Attorney – Servicing South Florida & Sebring Florida
- Grounds for Divorce
- Dissolution of Marriage Process(es)
- Regular Dissolution of Marriage
- Financial Affidavit
- Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
- Dividing Marital Property
After exhausting your attempts at reconciliation, it may be time to take the legal route and seek a divorce. In Florida, a divorce is termed a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida does not have stringent requirements in obtaining a dissolution of marriage.
At least one spouse has to be a Florida resident for at least six months prior to filing for a dissolution of marriage. If this requirement is not met, the only available option is to obtain a legal separation.
However, there is no right to a legal separation in Florida; unlike several other states, Florida statutes are silent on the topic. Therefore, it is important to meet the residency requirement to guarantee that you have a legal avenue to formally end your relationship.
Grounds for Divorce
Florida is a “no fault” state, meaning that either spouse simply needs to inform a court that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” to obtain a dissolution of marriage. Either party may file for the dissolution of marriage.
Dissolution of Marriage Process(es)
Regular Dissolution of Marriage
To commence a regular dissolution of marriage, you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the court in your county or the county where your estranged spouse resides. You must state within your petition that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Your petition must describe what you want the court to order. The respondent must file an Answer within twenty days of being served and may include a counter-petition for dissolution of marriage stating any further issues.
The court will demand you and your spouse to produce several financial documents and a financial affidavit to each other within forty-five days of the service of the petition. If you do not adhere to the court’s instruction, then the case may be dismissed.
Most counties will propose mediation to attempt to reach an agreement between you and your spouse, so there will be no need for a trial. However, mediation is not mandatory. Some Florida courts make participation in mediation mandatory before conducting a trial.
It is important to note that mediation is not an attempt by the court to reconcile your marriage, but it is to aid you and your spouse in reaching satisfactory terms for dissolving the marriage.
At times, spouses may agree to several or all of the terms, such as division of marital property, spousal and child support, and attorney fees before or after the petition is filed. If you and your spouse are able to come to an arrangement, you both should sign a written agreement and present it to the court.
Reaching an agreement before trial saves you both headaches and hastens the amount of time it takes for the divorce to finalize. If this route is not taken, and you and your spouse cannot agree to each of the terms, then a trial is required to commence. You and your spouse will present evidence and argue your positions.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
The second method for dissolving a marriage is simplified dissolution of marriage. This method does not require the assistance from an attorney; however, only certain married couples may qualify.
To be able to utilize the simplified dissolution of marriage method, you and your spouse must fit all of the criteria: both you and your spouse must agree to the use of this divorce method; must not have minor or dependent children; must not have adopted minor children; must not be pregnant; at least one of you has to have lived in Florida for the past six months; you and your spouse have agreed on how to divide all of the property and debts; neither one of you may be seeking alimony; and, both of you must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Dividing Marital Property
In Florida, the law calls for an “equitable distribution” of marital property (any property acquired during the marriage) following a dissolution of marriage. This means that the court will divide marital assets and debts fairly or equitably between you and your spouse. Usually, the division is not an even 50/50 split. Assets include vehicles, houses, stocks, bonds, etc.
Debts include mortgages, vehicle loans, etc. The court will consider various factors when making its determination on how to divide assets and debts between you and your spouse. The factors considered are the duration of the marriage; you and your spouse’s contribution to the marriage; you and your spouse’s economic circumstances; either your or your spouse’s contribution to the career or education of the other spouse; and, various other factors needed to make the fairest determination of division.
The court does allow for you and your spouse to come to an agreement about the division amongst yourselves, but if the court does not find that the agreement is reasonable, then the court may not approve the agreement. Thus, the court will divide marital property by weighing the aforementioned factors during trial.