Florida Divorce FAQs
Here are the answers to some common questions about divorce in Florida.
Do I need to prove my spouse is at fault?
No. In general, one party just needs to state that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." Fault may enter into the equation, though. For example, a judge may refuse to order alimony, or may reduce the amount, if the spouse who otherwise would receive the support is at fault in the divorce.
How long does a divorce take in Florida?
It depends on whether it is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce means that both spouses agree on child support, custody, visitation, division of property and debts, and alimony, if any. An uncontested divorce can take as little as four to five weeks. If the matter is contested — that is, the court must decide any of these issues — it can take six months or longer. In counties where the courts are extremely busy, it can easily take a year or more.
What is the first step towards getting divorced in Florida?
File a document called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. It outlines any claims that you have for things like child support, custody, alimony, and division of property and debts. In general, a process server must personally deliver the papers to the other spouse; this is called “service of process.” If you have children, Florida requires you to attend a seminar on children and divorce, but spouses need not attend together.
Is there a residency requirement?
One spouse must be a Florida resident for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the petition for divorce. If you are temporarily living out of state, the judge will decide whether or not you are still a Florida resident. If the court determines that you have no intention of coming back, you probably will not be considered a Florida resident. If you are in the military, being stationed outside of Florida does not affect your residency.
If I cannot find my spouse, can I still get a divorce?
Yes, after you conduct a diligent good faith search as required by Florida law. There is a list of steps you must take, such as contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles and talking to family and friends who may know where your spouse is. You must also publish a notice in an appropriate newspaper for a certain period of time. The court cannot order any division of property or alimony until your spouse is found and served with the papers.
Can one lawyer represent both spouses?
One lawyer cannot represent both spouses — it’s impossible to represent the interests of two people who have conflicting goals. Even if you think your goals are the same, lawyers are ethically prohibited from representing both parties in a divorce.
What if my spouse is violent or harasses me?
If you’re in danger, call the police or a domestic violence hotline like 800-799-SAFE. Even before you file for divorce, you can get a restraining order from the court, without notifying your spouse. Consult the clerk of court or a lawyer. If the court issues a restraining order on this basis ("ex parte"), there will be a court hearing within a number of days where your spouse can argue against the order. Once the divorce process begins, the court can order your spouse to leave the house (especially if you have children) and stay away from you. Domestic violence cases have priority in the court system and are heard quickly.
What if I need temporary alimony or child support before the final hearing in my case?
You can go to court after you have filed your petition and ask for an order of temporary child support, alimony, visitation rights, or custody.
Can I use my former name after the divorce?
Yes; in the petition for divorce, request that your former name be restored. You can learn more about how it works here.
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