How Do You Begin the Divorce Process in Florida?

In Florida the divorce process is known as a “dissolution of marriage.” Divorces begin when you or your spouse (or the party’s respective attorney) files a petition known as Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This petition must state the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” and include what is being asked of the court (e.g. distribution of property and assets, time sharing, etc. in addition to the legal dissolution of your marriage).

The other spouse must be served a copy of the petition and has 20 days from receipt to respond to the terms outlined in the petition. Additional paperwork from both parties are required to be submitted to the court, including a financial affidavit and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit if the divorcing couple has children.

If both parties agree on how to divide assets, property, debt, and responsibilities concerning any children, divorce proceedings can be finalized without going to trial, but the terms of the divorce must be approved by a judge (especially if children are involved). If not, the divorcing spouses must attend mediation to see if an agreement can be made. Failure to come to an agreement will force the matters to be settled in court with a trial proceeding known as a contested final hearing.

When a divorce is unexpected or events leading to the divorce are emotionally charged, a dissolution of a marriage can become quite stressful. A competent and aggressive attorney is who you need to help you fight for your rights in the divorce proceedings.

Asset Distribution

Florida utilizes a practice known as equitable distribution when it comes time to divide all marital property during a divorce. Marital assets and liabilities are divided between spouses in an equitable (fair) manner.  There are some assets and liabilities that are not distributed equitably; non-marital assets and liabilities, those accumulated prior to marriage, often remain with the spouse who entered the marriage with them.

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Spousal Support Considerations

In deciding whether spousal support is owed and how much to pay out, the court will look at several factors.  These usually include how much money the two sides made during marriage, the roles of each spouse in the marriage, the standard of living they achieved, how long the marriage lasted, and the physical condition and age of each spouse.

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Divorcing With Children

Child custody and visitation are no longer the standard terms used by Florida courts—parenting plans and time sharing have taken their place to encourage divorcing parents to attempt to work towards a co-parenting or parallel parenting arrangement.

The court must approve the submitted parenting plan or will enter its own parenting plan if the parents cannot come to an amicable agreement. Both parents should be able to “share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.” (Fla. Stat. §61.13(2)(c))  and a court entered parenting plan will aim to ensure the children have “regular and ongoing contact” with both of their parents.

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A parenting plan in Florida must include:

  • How each parent will be able to participate in raising their child(ren).
  • A time-sharing (visitation) schedule.
  • Designations for who oversees medical care, decisions regarding education, and other activities or child rearing concerns.
  • How the parents will continue communication with their child.

As for child support payments, both parents will be required to complete and file a child-support guideline worksheet. This form gathers information on the income and expenses of each parent to help the court determine how much each parent should be contributing financially to the well-being of their child(ren).

You can learn more about Child Support in Florida here.

Family law attorney, Luby Myrthil, can help you navigate the Florida divorce process and understand what the court requires when filing. She will help you make the right decisions and protect what matters most to you. You owe it to yourself, and any family affected by a pending divorce, to consult with our attorney and determine your best options.

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