How To File For Divorce In Florida?
Deciding whether to file for divorce in Florida or another state is a serious decision. For this reason, we suggest that before you decide take some time to think about this decision and get some clarity. Once you have really weighed the pros and cons, and you no longer wish to remain in your marriage you need to decide when you plan on proceeding with the divorce. If you plan on filing your divorce without a lawyer (which we strongly recommend not to do), or pro se, you will have to get the necessary paperwork to file for your divorce. Divorce forms are available at the clerk’s office in the county where you plan on filing for your divorce. Generally, people file in the county is where they reside. In Florida we have circuits which can include one to several counties. It’s a good idea to check the requirements for your particular circuit online to find out all of the things that you must do to properly file for your divorce.
Are you ready to file for divorce in Florida? This article will give a general idea of what will be required.
Florida State Requirements for Filing for Divorce
Since divorce law and procedure varies from each state, it’s prudent for you to be familiar with your state’s rules and how your case may be affected by them. You must be a resident of the county where you plan on filing your divorce for a period of at least six months. Additionally, you should file your divorce in the county where you reside unless you retained counsel and your attorney has advised you otherwise for some strategic reason. The county where you file for your divorce has its own set of legal procedural rules, under “Family Law Rules.” You can check the local rules for your county online prior to filling out your paperwork for your divorce. In Florida, family law and divorce cases are heard in Circuit Courts.
Which Form Do I Fill Out for Divorce?
The party who files for the divorce is called the petitioner, and the divorce complaint that they file is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The respondent is the other spouse. This petition is an official form with which you are asking the court to legally terminate your marriage. You will need to list the issues in your petition that you would like the court to deal with, such as but not limited to asset division, debt allocation, child custody of minor children, alimony and/or child support. Since Florida is a no-fault divorce state, you do not have to have special grounds for the court to grant your divorce. To receive a divorce in Florida you only have to show the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken and/or one of the spouses is or has been deemed mentally incapacitated for three years. Considerations based on fault such as adultery or cruelty weigh more towards alimony, child custody, and division of property.
Before filing your divorce petition, you will need to have it notarized. Most likely, a notary will be available at the clerk’s office where you file. In addition to giving the clerk your notarized divorce petition, a filing fee must also be paid to the clerk. You will also want to have the clerk make a copy of the petition after the clerk has officially stamped it. Keep a copy for yourself, and make an additional copy which will have to be used to serve the spouse you are serving the divorce on.
A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage” form can be filed in situations where spouses have reached an agreement on property division, no minor children are involved, and alimony is not being sought by either party. One word of caution, if you are fortunate enough in this position make sure that you really think this through prior to filing the simplified petition form and at the least have a lawyer look at the agreement between you and your spouse. The main reason for this is that in filing the simplified dissolution of marriage form, you surrender rights that later cannot be undone. An example of this is if you discover that your spouse hid money or assets from you prior to the divorce. You will definitely want to have a lawyer even in a simple dissolution, since one of the requirements is to draft a settlement agreement. Your attorney will draft the required settlement agreement that will outline you and your spouse’s plan on how to divide all the debts and assets between you. Be sure to check the clerk of court’s website regarding any additional information for a simplified dissolution of marriage.
Serving Your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
Serving your petition is the term which means providing your spouse a copy of the divorce filed by you. Your spouse can be served in several ways. First, your spouse may already be aware that you have filed your petition and simply agrees to personally accept service or if your spouse is represented, the attorney may accept service. In order to do this, your spouse will need to sign and notarize an Answer and Waiver of Service form, which is available at the clerk’s office.
A sheriff might be able to serve your petition to your spouse, contingent on the county where you live. You can always confirm if a sheriff may serve your spouse at the clerk of court’s office in your county. Additionally, your petition may be served by a private process server. The clerk’s office where you filed your petition will have a list of approved process servers, and may even have business cards available for the approved process servers.
For spouses that live in a different county from you, service will need to be made by either a private process server or sheriff if permitted. You can find approved process server’s in your spouse’s county by calling the clerk’s office in the county where your spouse resides.
Finally, in cases where you cannot locate the county where your spouse resides, service can be made by publishing the notice in a local newspaper. This type of service is known as constructive service.
What is a Financial Affidavit?
Under Florida law, it is mandatory to provide a complete, signed financial affidavit to your spouse no more than 45 days from the time of service of your petition. Financial affidavit forms are available from your clerk’s office. There are two types of forms, the first is a short form which can be used if your income is under $50,000. The second is the long form affidavit, for income greater than $50,000. The financial affidavit covers your income, debts, assets, IRS tax returns, bank account statements for checking and savings, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and annuities and other relevant financial information.
Contacting a Family Law and Divorce Attorney
Although you can certainly file your divorce yourself, it is wise to at the least discuss your case with a competent attorney. An attorney will be able to better advise you on situations that may arise that you did not anticipate and make sure that your financial and child custody interests are protected in your divorce.
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