Florida residents who file for divorce have two options. They can either use the services of an attorney or handle their divorce independently. If you decide to represent yourself, you’ll need to understand the state’s requirements. The Florida family law rules of procedure set out the steps you must follow. Here, we take a closer look at what you must do to start your case.
Preparing the Divorce Forms
On the Family Courts resource page of the Florida Court website, you’ll find an overview of the state’s divorce process. You will also find the essential forms you will need at the Florida Family Law Self-Help Center.
First, you need to complete the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. There are several versions of this form. Depending on whether you have property and/or dependent children, you will need to select the right one for you. Bear in mind one spouse at least must have lived in Florida for a minimum of six months before filing. Filing for divorce must take place in the county in which you’re a resident. Since your county might have extra filing requirements or forms, you must check with your court clerk regarding the rules.
Must I Prove Fault?
Florida doesn’t recognize any fault-based divorce. Therefore, there’s no need to prove your spouse has engaged in any misconduct. All you must do is state your marriage has broken down irretrievably. The judge will still bear in mind the misconduct of either spouse when awarding alimony, custody, or property. You must list all the issues you want the court to address in the petition.
What Should I Do If My Spouse and I Have Already Reached Agreements?
Have you already made agreements with your spouse about property division? If neither of you is requesting alimony and there are no dependent children, there is an easier option. You can file the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage Petition. Alternatively, you could resolve the divorce by a settlement agreement.
Filing the Forms
Before you can file for divorce, you must get the petition notarized. Don’t sign the papers until you’re in front of the notary. When you file the documents, you give a copy of the notarized and signed petition to the court clerk. If you aren’t sure where to file your documents, you can find a list of circuit courts here. You will also need to pay a filing fee. If you are in financial need, you can file a request to waive the fee. The court clerk will, then, give you a date-stamped copy. This will prove you have filed your document. Keep another copy for yourself and another that the court will serve on your spouse.
Serving the Forms
You can serve the filed petition on your spouse in several ways:
- Your spouse or his or her attorney can accept the service of the petition. He or she must, then, complete the Answer & Waiver of Service, which they must notarize, sign, and file.
- A local sheriff can deliver your petition by hand to your spouse.
- You could use a nonparty individual aged over 18 to serve the petition or a private process server. The office of the circuit court clerk can give you a list of process servers to pick from.
- Can’t locate your spouse or your spouse is in jail or the military? You can use an alternative service. You must check with the court clerk in this circumstance.
Making Financial Disclosures
Within 45 days of petition service on your spouse, you must provide him or her with your signed financial affidavit. You must also supply supporting documentation, including:
- Bank statements
- Tax returns
- Personal financial statements
- Credit card statements
You must be honest and thorough when making financial disclosures. If you don’t disclose all the relevant information, you could end up facing sanctions.
Seeking Professional Help
The Florida family law rules of procedure can be complex to navigate on your own. Our expert family law team is here to help. We can offer you the advice you need and ensure the best outcome for you when filing for divorce.