Florida Divorce Attorneys provide answers to frequently asked questions with regards to divorce in Florida.
There are two grounds for divorce, formally referred to as “dissolution of marriage”: irreconcilable differences and mental incapacity of the other party. If mental incapacity is alleged, the party alleged incapacitated must have been adjudicated incapacitated for a period of three years prior to filing for dissolution of marriage.
What is a divorce going to cost me? Can I afford it?
It is very difficult to say how much your divorce will cost due to all of the variables in a particular case. You and your attorney should discuss the different variables in every case generally and in your case specifically. Whether you can afford an attorney will depend, of course, on your income and assets and whether you would be entitled to an award of attorney’s fees paid by your spouse.
Do I really need to hire an attorney?
Divorce laws can be complex and even counter-intuitive. You need the advice of an experienced family lawyer to discuss the particular issues in your case and the corresponding laws regarding each issue to fully understand your financial exposure to alimony and child support, the equitable distribution of your assets and debts and whether those assets and debts could be unequally divided, and the factors the court considers when establishing a parenting plan for your children.
Does Florida grant divorces based on marital fault?
Florida is a no-fault state.
The law regarding spousal support includes many factors the court considers when determining if a spouse is entitled to support, what type of support, and how much to award. You need to speak to an experienced family lawyer and discuss the facts in support of your claim for support or exposure to paying support to your spouse.
Can I change my name at the time of divorce?
The wife can ask the court to restore her maiden name as long as the request is not an attempt to commit fraud, any criminal or illegal activity, or for the purpose of filing or related to any bankruptcy proceedings.
Can I get an annulment in Florida?
An annulment makes it so the marriage never occurred. Annulments are rare in family law. There are no specific statutes in Florida that govern annulment and the court falls back on existing case law to make a decision. The grounds must involve grievous misrepresentations by one spouse to another. Examples include fraud, duress, consanguinity (you learned after the wedding that you are related to him or her by blood), or impotence. Impotence means that one party is incapable of having sex, and it should not be confused with an inability to procreate. You should discuss the particular facts of your case that cause you to believe an annulment is possible with an experienced family lawyer.
In order for the court to have subject-matter jurisdiction to enter dissolution of marriage, one of the parties must reside in the state of Florida for six months before the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage and must have the intent to remain a resident of Florida at the time of filing. Once you have lived in Florida for the requisite period of time, and you have a ground for divorce, you can file for divorce.
When is my case going to be over?
There are a lot of variables that effect how long a case will take. It is important to choose an experienced family lawyer to aggressively move your case forward while ensuring competent and comprehensive representation.
Do I have to go to court?
In most jurisdictions, the only time you will have to go to court will be to attend a case management conference. A case management conference is held so the court can be informed as to the status of the case and make orders moving the case forward. The majority of divorce cases settle at mediation. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement at mediation, the case will be scheduled for trial. During the course of a case, other issues may arise that need court intervention such as non-compliance with the exchange of documents and information.
If attempts to serve my spouse do not work, what is my next step?
If you are unable to serve your spouse, you can ask the court for the ability to perfect service by publication. The court will require that you use due diligence to locate your spouse prior to allowing service by publication.
At what point during the process can a spouse remarry or start dating?
You must wait until the court enters a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage before you can remarry. There are no Florida laws regarding when you can start dating. However, if children are involved, there may be strategic reasons why you should not. You should discuss this issue with your attorney prior to deciding to date.
What if my spouse does not want the divorce?
There is a Florida statute that gives the court the authority to abate the proceedings and order the parties to 90 days of marital counseling. This statute is rarely invoked because if one of the parties truly believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken and marital counseling will not help, the court is likely to find that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Do the other issues – child support, child custody, alimony, and property – have to be decided before the divorce is final?
Not necessarily, but most likely. The court can bifurcate a case and divorce the parties prior to ruling on the other issues, but only in very extraordinary circumstances such as when one of the parties is terminally ill and likely to pass away prior to adjudication on the issues in the case.
After I file for divorce, do I have to continue to live in Florida?
No, but Florida will retain jurisdiction over your case.
What if I am in the military and out of state?
If you are in the military, there are special laws that provide guidance to where divorces can be filed. You will need to discuss your particular relationship to Florida with an experienced family lawyer to ascertain if Florida is the proper state in which to file.
What forms do I need to file for a divorce in Florida?
You will need a Civil Case Cover Sheet, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Notice of Social Security, and Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act Affidavit (if there are children born of the marriage) to file for divorce. There are other mandatory financial disclosure documents that need to be filed during the case.
How and where is a divorce complaint filed?
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and accompanying documents are filed at the family law courthouse in the jurisdiction where you and your spouse last lived as husband and wife. The documents are generally taken to the courthouse by the process server who asks the clerk of court to file the documents and issue a summons. Once the summons has been issued and documents filed, the process server will personally serve all the documents on your spouse.
How do I serve the divorce complaint on my spouse?
You must hire a process server or sheriff to serve the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and accompanying documents.
You will have to go to court if you are the petitioner and prove the residency requirements and grounds for divorce if all of the issues in the case have been agreed upon by the parties and memorialized in writing in a Marital Settlement Agreement. If the parties have not settled all of the issues, the court will make rulings on the issues and then grant the divorce.
What typically happens if I go to court to obtain my divorce myself?
A person representing his or herself (called a pro se litigant) will have to become familiar with state procedural laws and circuit court procedural rules to obtain a divorce. What typically happens is that the pro se litigant will learn the procedural rules by first not following proper procedure, which is extremely time-consuming and frustrating. Having an experienced family lawyer will ensure that proper procedures are followed for expedient adjudication of your case.
At any time can a parent change a minor child’s last name without the other parent’s permission?
No, a parent must have the Petition for Change of Name personally served on the other parent.
Can a couple become legally married by living together as man and wife under the state’s laws (common law marriage)?
There is no common law marriage in Florida.