The Florida divorce rate for the past 10 years was 4.8 per 1,000 marriages, slightly higher than the national average. Most divorces in the state are filed between couples who have been married for five to nine years, with longer-term marriages having a lower divorce rate of just 3.2 per 1,000 marriages.
While these are the average divorce rates in the Sunshine State, the truth is that divorce can happen to people of any age who have been married for short and long periods.
If you are at the point where you are considering divorce, it is only natural to have questions about the process and what to expect. At Griffin Family Law, PLLC, I can help answer your questions and aid with the entire legal process.
It is not unusual to have several questions about divorce, including:
- How to file for a divorce?
- How long does a divorce take?
- How is a divorce finalized?
- How much does it cost to file for a divorce?
You can learn more about how to file for divorce in Florida here.
Filing for Divorce in Florida
A no-fault divorce process is used in Florida. This means that you do not have to show fault to file. Instead, you must show one of two things:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken; or
- Your spouse has been mentally incapacitated for at least three years.
While the state follows a no-fault divorce process, it will consider fault in infidelity and cruel treatment when determining other family law matters like alimony, property division, and child custody.
The steps to file for divorce in Florida can be found here.
Step 1: File the Petition
The first step to getting a divorce in Florida is filing a petition. The person who files the divorce petition is the “petitioner.” You must file the petition with the circuit court, and it should state the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” You will file this in the county where both spouses lived together last or where the petitioner currently lives.
Step 2: Answer the Petition
After the petition is filed, the next step is for the respondent to respond. The respondent is the person to whom the petition is served. In Florida, the respondent has 20 days to respond from when the papers are originally served.
The answer filed by the respondent often includes a counter-petition and includes if the other spouse denies or agrees with the petition. It can be written to include other matters for the court to consider.
During this step, either party can request restraining, protective, or temporary orders involving spousal support, child support, and child custody.
You should hire a divorce attorney to serve as your legal advocate. They will work to ensure your interests are communicated and protected throughout the Florida divorce process.
Step 3: Discovery Process
Several actions are involved during divorce discovery. This is considered a crucial part of the divorce process, and when a divorce attorney can gather more information regarding the outcome of the filing. It is common for one party involved in the divorce to fail to disclose all their assets to the other person.
Hiring a Florida divorce attorney means you have access to someone who understands the discovery process and will ensure the court has all the information needed to make fair and equal decisions regarding property distribution, alimony, and more.
It is also required that a financial affidavit be filed within 45 days of the initial divorce petition. All parties must provide the required disclosures, which include the following:
- Proof of income
- Bank account statements
- Income tax returns
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Other accounts that show your debts
Step 4: Mediation
Mediation is required during a Florida divorce if an agreement cannot be reached or if there are problems with the petition for the dissolution of the marriage. Mediation may not be required if domestic violence is involved in your case.
Having an attorney means you have someone to represent your opinions and rights related to issues like property division, alimony, and other relevant issues.
Step 5: Parenting Plan Creation
One of the final parts of divorce includes deciding and agreeing on a parenting plan (if you have children). The plan includes several areas related to the child or children. These include the following:
- Each parent’s involvement in raising the child
- Communication with children
- Which parent handles important decisions
Creating a parenting plan and a timesharing schedule is an important first step in determining child support.
Step 6: Go to Trial
If you and your spouse (with the help of your attorneys) cannot reach a final agreement on the financial aspects of your divorce and concerns related to your children (if a relevant factor), your case must go to trial. A judge will decide your divorce proceeding.
During the trial, your attorney will work to represent your interests and rights in front of a judge. This includes, if necessary, providing testimony and evidence and cross-examining witnesses whom the other party calls. Once concluded, the judge will provide a final decision on any issues not settled during mediation or negotiations.
If you do not believe the final decision issued by the judge over your case is fair, you can file an appeal. In this situation, you will have the opportunity to have a new hearing scheduled.
Step 7: Finalizing the Divorce
After all the issues related to the dissolution of marriage are negotiated and agreed to by both parties (or decided by the court), the final step in the divorce is for the judge to issue an “order of dissolution.” This is also referred to as the Final Judgment. If the negotiations were successful and no trial was necessary, the lawyer for the party who filed the petition would create a judgment, and both parties would sign it.
Common Questions About Florida Divorce
While the above gives you a general overview of the divorce process in Florida, you may still have questions. I have answered some of the most common questions my clients ask here.
How is alimony determined in my Florida divorce?
In Florida, the spouse earning the higher income may be required for the temporary or ongoing support of the other. This may impact the final resolution; however, you must not receive too little or pay too much during the earliest stages of the divorce. When determining alimony payments in Florida, the law allows for several types, including:
- Lump sum alimony
- Bridge-the-gap alimony
- Durational alimony
- Permanent alimony
The purpose of alimony is to provide the receiving spouse with the money needed to maintain a lifestyle equal to what they had during their marriage. Factors like the length of the marriage and each party’s income will determine the types and amounts of alimony awarded.
What does equitable distribution mean?
Equitable distribution in a Florida divorce refers to the division of marital assets and liabilities. Marital property will be equitably divided between you and your spouse when the marriage is dissolved. While there is the legal presumption that “equitable” and “equal” are the same, there are some situations where a disproportionate distribution that favors one party or the other may be a fair division. With equitable distribution, you wind up with a post-divorce estate that has a similar value to your ex-spouses instead of being joint owners of all your assets.
What is considered marital property?
Marital property refers to any assets or liabilities acquired during the marriage by either spouse or together. Usually, this includes anything acquired up to when a divorce was filed. Some of the items included as marital property include stocks, assets in trusts, investments, houses, retirement accounts, businesses, land, boats, home contents, gifts to each spouse, and more.
What is considered non marital property?
Regarding property division in a Florida divorce, the nonmarital property will usually be put into one of three categories. These include the following:
- Property owned before the marriage ad is maintained as separate property throughout the marriage.
- Property is received during the marriage as a gift from a third party or as an inheritance maintained as separate property.
- Property that is received or earned from marital labor once the divorce papers have been filed.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer for Help and Information
If you are filing for divorce in Florida, I can help with each step. I can review the divorce proceedings and help you file all the related documents. Contact my office to schedule a consultation.
Divorce can be complex, but I can help you get the best possible outcome for your situation and explain the process each step of the way.