How to File a DIY Divorce in Florida
Who said divorce must be a complicated legal procedure involving lawyers battling in the courts? The good news is you can file a DIY divorce in Florida. If you and your spouse are on the same page and want to work together, it will save you time and money. If you both are considering taking this approach, the following will put you on the right track.
Where to Get Florida DIY Divorce Forms?
Filing a DIY divorce in Florida can be challenging if you do not know where to get the divorce papers. However, there are many available options to do so in Florida. Some options allow you to complete your paperwork within a couple of hours and some take much longer.
Local Court (4+ Weeks)
Your local county court is like a one-stop shop for all your divorce-related concerns. You can access the court in person and pick up the forms or have them mailed to you, or you can visit the Florida State Court website to download the forms. These forms already have the legal language in place, and can be filled online for free. The Florida courts website also contains numerous resources that will make filing your divorce easier.
Buy Divorce Forms (1 Week +)
There are many trusted online resources you can use to buy your divorce papers online at a very low cost. These providers also provide a written walk through on how to fill out the forms as well. Its pretty simple and all you need to do is fill in the state in which you reside, and you will receive all the appropriate forms.
Online Divorce Paperwork Service (1 – 3 hours)
This method is becoming increasingly popular. After signing up, the service will customize your divorce papers based on the information you
provide. Some of these services have paralegals or real attorneys to review your documents after you have completed them. If you are pressed for time and don’t want to figure out all the paperwork, this is definitely the best option.
An Attorney (Months)
Although you’ve decided to file a DIY divorce in Florida, you can still consult with your attorney. Your lawyer will provide you with the proper documentation, and may also prepare you for what’s ahead but the cost and time involved will greatly increase.
Decide Between Simplified or Regular Divorce
The documentation and the procedure for divorce can vary considerably depending on your circumstances. Before filling out the forms, it is imperative that you decide which type of divorce you are seeking. In Florida, the fastest kind of divorce is the simplified divorce. If you want to file for divorce using the simplified process, you must meet specific requirements. First, you must not have any children, either adopted or gotten in the marriage who are still dependent or under 18 years. Another condition is that you must both agree on how to divide your property, debts, and assets.
Finally, you must see eye to eye that the marriage is dissolved, and neither of you should seek alimony.
Most of these requirements can be challenging to meet. Nevertheless, if you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce, you can still undergo a reasonably streamlined procedure with an uncontested regular divorce. However, you must be confident that you’ve agreed on everything before filing for a non-contested divorce because you relinquish several rights you would have otherwise.
If you meet the criteria for a simplified divorce, you must prepare a settlement agreement and sign it too. The agreement is supposed to cover how to divide the debt and property.
Preparing your Forms
Divorce, or “dissolution of marriage” as is recognized in Florida is regulated by a statute called Chapter 61. Before anything else, you must ensure that you are filing the proper forms, in the correct circuit. The state of Florida is divided into jurisdictions known as circuits. The requirements may vary slightly for each circuit. The law requires that you file for dissolution of marriage in the county in which you reside, and you must have lived there for not less than six months before filing your divorce petition.
When filing for divorce in Florida, the first document you need to complete is the “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” Florida is a strictly no-fault divorce state, meaning that the court does not assign fault to either the petitioner (the one filing) or the respondent. In simple terms, this says that either spouse reserves the right to file for divorce irrespective of bad behavior or fault. If you want to be granted a divorce in Florida, all you need to show is that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
This affirmation, also known as irreconcilable differences indicates that the union has reached a dead end, and cannot be salvaged. You can also receive a divorce if you show that one of the significant other has been mentally incapacitated for more than three years. However, the court can still contemplate fault such as cruel treatment or infidelity when determining child custody, alimony or division of property.
You must list all the issues you want the court to address on your petition be it alimony, the division of debts and assets, child support or parental responsibility.
Filing your Paperwork
The term filing for divorce’ means that you have submitted your petition to dissolve your marriage to the clerk’s office. Remember that you must file the petition in the circuit court of the county in which you reside. Before filing with the court, your petition must be notarized, and most courthouses will have a notary at the clerk’s office to do this at a fee.
After your petition is notarized, you can sign it and submit it to the clerk together with the filing fee for dissolving a marriage. In turn, you should get a copy with a date stamp and a notation indicating that the petition has been filed with the court. It is imperative that you make extra copies, one for yourself and an extra one to serve your spouse.
Serving your Forms
You must present your spouse with a copy of the filed divorce petition, also known as serving,’ which you can do in several ways. If your spouse agrees to the service, they or their attorney can accept by completing and signing a form known as answer and Waiver of Service.’ The form must also be notarized. If you don’t do it personally, you can request the sheriff’s office to serve your spouse with the petition.
Another option would be to select a list of private process servers from the clerk’s office to deliver the petition for you. If your spouse lives in a
different county from you, it is the sheriff or process server from their county who should serve the request.
If you can’t locate your partner, you can use constructive service’ to serve them. Constructive service means publishing a notice in the local newspaper for 30 days.
Court Appearance and Judgement
After filing for divorce, you will appear before a judge or mediator for the hearing. If both parties have no issues with the filed petition, the state can finalize the marriage dissolution promptly. However, if any of you chose to contest, you should expect to make several trips to the courthouse.
In Florida, the divorce decree or the final order of divorce is the document that officially symbolizes the end of a marriage. The divorce decree contains all the terms agreed upon in the petition, including property division, alimony, child custody and more.
A researcher by trade, Steffan loves writing about the legal process in an effort to help reduce the complexities of the legal system. Learning from his own personal divorce, he enjoys sharing what has helped him, what didn’t, and how to move on with your life.