Divorce Process in Florida: What Are the Steps to Getting a Divorce?

If you are considering getting a divorce, knowing the process and the timeline in the steps in a divorce is important to make this difficult time as smooth as possible. As legal advocates for our clients, the Golden Key Law Group understands how stressful this time can be and is here to provide the information you need regarding the steps to getting a divorce in Florida.

In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” There are two types:

What Are the Steps in a Divorce in FloridaSimplified Dissolution of Marriage — for spouses who do not have children, agree on the division of property/assets, are not seeking alimony, and are not pregnant;

Regular Dissolution of Marriage — for spouses who fall under all other circumstances, including a contested divorce over property/assets and legal matters and responsibilities for children.

Each situation is different, but the overall divorce process in Florida has certain requirements and steps.

How to Get A Divorce In Florida: 7 Steps to the Process

Here are the steps to get a divorce (dissolution of marriage) in Florida:

Step 1: Filing the Petition

The first step in getting a divorce is filing the petition. In a dissolution of marriage, the person who is filing for the divorce is called the “petitioner.” The petition is filed in the circuit court and must state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The court filing will either be in the county where both spouses last lived together or the county in which the Petitioner currently lives.

Additionally, when filing the petition for dissolution of marriage, the petitioner must also submit additional legal documents required by the court. These documents can include financial affidavits, property distribution proposals, and, if applicable, child custody plans.

Step 2: Answering the Petition

Once the original petition is filed, the next step in a divorce for the respondent, the person on whom the petition is served, to compose and file an answer to the petition for the dissolution of marriage. The respondent has twenty days from when the papers are served to respond. The answer, which often includes a counter-petition, will include what the other spouse agrees with or denies in the petition and can include additional matters to present to the court. If the respondent’s answer includes a counter-petition, the petitioner must file a response within twenty days.

Additionally, during this step in the divorce process in Florida after the original filing, either party in the divorce may ask for protective orders, restraining orders, and/or temporary orders involving child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Moreover, in crafting their answer to the divorce petition, the respondent has the opportunity to assert affirmative defenses. These defenses could include arguments like condonation (forgiveness of a fault leading to the divorce), collusion (an agreement between the spouses to simulate grounds for divorce), or provocation by the petitioner.

A divorce attorney, as the client’s legal advocate, works to ensure the client’s interests are appropriately communicated during this time and throughout the divorce process in Florida.

Step 3: Gathering Additional Information: The Divorce Discovery Process

The discovery process includes a range of actions. This is one of the most crucial steps in the divorce process and where a divorce attorney can gather additional key information for the outcome of the divorce. It is common for one party in a divorce to not disclose all assets to the other party. With a divorce attorney in St. Petersburg, you will have a legal expert who is very knowledgeable about the discovery process to ensure the courts have the comprehensive information they need to render an appropriate decision for the allocation of alimony and distribution of property and other assets.

In addition to a financial affidavit, which must be filed within 45 days of the petition being served, each party must provide mandatory disclosures. Mandatory disclosures include the following documents:

  • Income tax returns
  • Proof of income
  • Credit card statements
  • Bank account statements
  • Retirement account statements
  • Other account statements that reflect debt

The discovery process also extensively utilizes interrogatories and depositions as powerful tools for gathering detailed information. Interrogatories are a set of written questions that the other party must answer under oath. These questions are designed to uncover not just financial details but also relevant information regarding any disputes over child custody, alimony, and other pertinent issues. On the other hand, depositions involve the oral questioning of the parties involved, as well as witnesses, in the presence of a court reporter.

Step 4: Mediation: Negotiating the Terms of the Divorce

Throughout most of Florida, divorce mediation is required under the law if an agreement has not yet been reached or there are certain issues with the petition for the dissolution of marriage still unresolved. If you are a victim of domestic violence, mediation may not be required.

This process provides a confidential setting where parties can explore options for resolving their disputes with the help of a neutral third-party mediator.

A divorce attorney represents your rights and opinions regarding alimony, the division of property, and any other relevant areas of the negotiations.

Step 5: Agreeing on a Parenting Plan

Deciding on the parenting plan is one of the final steps in a divorce involving children. The plan will include multiple areas concerning the child (or children,) including each parent’s involvement in raising the children, a schedule for time-sharing, how the communication with the children will be handled, and which parent will be in charge of filling out important forms for school, health care, and other related forms such as enrollments in sports teams, camps, etc. Establishing a Parenting Plan and timesharing schedule is also an important step in determining child support.

Experts recommend incorporating flexibility into the parenting plan to accommodate the evolving needs of children as they grow. This could involve periodic reviews and adjustments to the time-sharing schedule, educational decisions, and extracurricular activities.

Step 6: Going to Trial (Only if Needed)

If the two parties are unable to come to a final agreement on both the financial aspects of the divorce and issues regarding the children (if relevant), the proceedings will need to go to trial. This will be in front of a judge, not a jury.

At the trial, your divorce attorney will represent your rights and interests in front of the judge. This includes, when appropriate, presenting evidence and testimony, as well as cross-examining any witnesses that take the stand. Once the trial has concluded, the judge will make a final decision on any issues that were not settled during negotiations.

If you feel that the final decision by the judge is unfair, you have the option to file an appeal to request a new hearing.

In cases that proceed to trial, the strategic use of expert witnesses can be pivotal in influencing the judge’s decisions on complex issues, such as the valuation of marital assets, the determination of a spouse’s earning capacity, and the assessment of children’s needs for custody purposes.

Step 7: Finalizing the Divorce

Once all of the parameters of the dissolution of marriage have been negotiated and agreed upon by both parties (or mandated by the court), the final step in a divorce is when the judge signs the “order of dissolution,” which is also called the Final Judgement. If negotiations were successful without going to trial, it is typical in the steps to getting a divorce in Florida for the lawyer of the party who filed the petition for the divorce to draft the judgment for both parties to sign.

Additionally, this is may be the time to address any necessary steps to comply with the order, such as transferring titles, closing joint accounts, or initiating alimony and child support payments.

Golden Key Law Group Fights Hard for You

At Golden Key Law, we are passionate about helping our clients through challenging, stressful times. We work aggressively to ensure your voice is heard throughout each of the steps of the divorce and fight hard for an equitable outcome.

We understand the difficulties that come with going through a divorce and ensure excellence in our services throughout the process, giving our clients the confidence they need.

Contact Golden Key Law Group today for a consultation with a divorce attorney in Pinellas Park, FL. Our telephone number is 727-317-4738.