When you are filing for a divorce in Florida, having a thorough understanding of the process helps alleviate stress during a very difficult time. Depending on your situation, it can be quite complex, especially if there are children involved. A skilled divorce attorney in St. Petersburg can serve as your legal advocate to ensure your best interests are clearly communicated throughout the divorce proceedings.
How to File for Divorce in Florida
The official term for divorce in Florida is the dissolution of marriage. You do not have to be separated for a certain amount of time to file for a divorce in Florida. Florida is a “no-fault” state, so you can file for a divorce at any time so long as you are over 18 years old, have lived in Florida for at least six months before filing, and the marriage is irretrievably broken, or your spouse has been mentally incapacitated for three years.
The first step in filing for a divorce in Florida is preparing the petition and supporting documents and filing them with the court. After filing, there are two directions a divorce proceeding can go, depending upon whether the divorce is uncontested or contested. When the divorce is uncontested, you may be able to file for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.
Filing a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
If both spouses want the divorce, there are no children under the age of 18, and you agree on the division of all assets and liabilities, a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage could be the appropriate way to proceed. There are a few other requirements to qualify for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in Florida, such as:
- Neither you nor your spouse is pregnant;
- Neither you nor your spouse is seeking alimony;
- You or your spouse have lived in Florida for the last six months; and
- You and your spouse agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken
In a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you and your spouse sign the court papers and will have to attend a final court hearing where a judge will dissolve your marriage.
There is a fee to file for dissolution of marriage, but the state does have an option to file a fee waiver request based on financial needs/circumstances.
Filing a Regular Dissolution of Marriage
This is the process used when the divorce is contested, meaning that the two parties cannot or will not agree to issues surrounding children, the division of marital property and debt, or alimony. Typically, a contested Dissolution of Marriage occurs when one spouse files the petition and other paperwork and the other spouse is “served.”
In many circumstances, when you are filing a divorce in Florida that is contested, a divorce attorney will lead negotiations on your behalf to achieve a divorce settlement.
Most negotiations, including the division of property, can result in a final settlement. In the event that a final settlement cannot be secured through negotiations, a divorce attorney in St. Petersburg, FL, will represent your interests during the trial.
Serving the Forms to Your Spouse
If your situation requires a regular dissolution of marriage when filing for a divorce in Florida, a copy of the petition must be sent to the respondent (your spouse). When working with a divorce attorney, they can manage this process. If your spouse does not accept the petition, the sheriff’s department may be used as an option for serving your spouse. Private process servers are also used when needed, but they have to be approved by the Circuit Court. If the spouse is unable to be located, there are specific rules the courts have to deal with these circumstances.
Property division in a dissolution of marriage has certain parameters and guidelines in the State of Florida. Basically, each spouse can keep his/her non-marital property/assets, such as those acquired prior to the marriage and property acquired through inheritance.
If negotiations are not able to be finalized for property/assets (and liabilities), and the divorce proceedings have to go to trial, then there are a number of factors that the judge will take into consideration, including:
- The duration of the marriage
- The contributions of each spouse to the marriage, including childcare and education of the children, as well as homemaking
- Economic circumstances of the spouses
- The need/desirability of retaining the marital home for a child/children under 18
- Contributions to or interruption of a spouse’s education or career
- Any intentional destruction, waste, or dissipation of property/assets after the petition is filed
- This list is not all-inclusive but incorporates a large portion of what the judge would consider when determining how marital assets and liabilities should be divided. Consulting with a divorce attorney in Pinellas County, FL, is advised.
Alimony is a complex topic, and there are several different types of alimony that can be awarded that are determined by a variety of factors. The judge will consider several factors, including financial resources and standard of living, duration of the marriage, contributions to the marriage, responsibility for children, and the age and physical and emotional condition of each spouse, when determining if alimony is appropriate, what type of alimony to award, and in what amount.
A divorce lawyer can act as your advocate when the judge is considering these factors and determining the amount of the alimony.
Determining Child Custody and Child Support
Often the hardest and most contested part of filing for a divorce in Florida is child custody and child support. Officially, the terms used in family law in the state are parental responsibility, parenting time, and time-sharing. In a contested dissolution of marriage, having a divorce attorney on your side can make a significant impact when dealing with what will happen with the children after you and your spouse are no longer together.
The judge will utilize many factors when establishing parental responsibility and timesharing, the most important of which is what is in the best interests of the child. Other factors the judge will consider include each party’s capacity to prioritize the needs of the child, the mental and physical health of the parents, the ability of the parents to provide a consistent routine, and the reasonable preference of the child if they have the intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference for one parent or the other.
Contact a Divorce Attorney Today
What happens when going through a divorce will make an enormous impact on your life for years to come. With an experienced divorce attorney, you will have a skilled professional advocating on your behalf for an equitable outcome.
Contact Golden Key Law Group, PLLC today to set up a consultation. We understand how difficult it is and are here to help ease your stress and protect your interests. You shouldn’t have to go through this alone.