Filing for Divorce: The First Step in the Florida Divorce Process
Filing for divorce in the state of Florida is a multi-step process that must be executed correctly to comply with state law and to protect the rights and interests of everyone involved. The first step in filing for divorce in Florida is the filing itself: filing a petition for divorce (called a petition for the dissolution of marriage). Of course, this component of the Florida divorce process is not as simple as merely signing and mailing a piece of paper. Here is a breakdown of filing for dissolution of marriage, the first step in the Florida divorce process.
Step Zero: Grounds for Divorce
Before even beginning the divorce process, a couple must have grounds for divorce. The state of Florida is a no-fault divorce state, which means there is no need for a party to show fault of the other party in order to qualify for divorce. Rather, an individual need only show that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one spouse has been mentally incapacitated for three years or more. But beware: while Florida is a no-fault divorce state, traditional notions of fault like infidelity, cruel treatment, abuse, etc. can still be considered when it comes time to decide the details of the divorce agreement including alimony payments, child custody, and property division.
Step One: Acquiring and Drafting the Petition
A form version of a petition for the dissolution of marriage is available online at the Florida courts’ website. Additionally, an individual seeking divorce may go the clerk’s office at his or her county court to retrieve a form for the petition for the dissolution of marriage. The form must be filled out completely and signed by the individual requesting the divorce. A petition for the dissolution of marriage should list all of the issues that the court will need to resolve for the final divorce agreement, including alimony, child support (if applicable), division of property and assets, etc. The form also must be notarized, which can generally be done at the county clerk’s office for a small fee or by local businesses that offer the service, such as banks, post offices, etc.
Step Two: Filing the Petition
After it is completed, the petition must be filed at the clerk’s office at the individual’s county court. In order to be eligible for divorce, the filing individual must have lived in the county for at least six months prior to the filing of the petition for divorce. The filing individual will be required to pay a small filing fee to the court along with delivering the signed and notarized petition. The clerk will return to the filing spouse a copy with a date stamp as well as a note showing that the petition has been filed with the court. At that time, the individual should make a copy of the petition for himself or herself, as well as an additional copy to be used when serving the petition to his or her spouse.
Step Three: Getting Help
While Florida’s divorce process can, in theory, be navigated by an average individual, it may well be far easier, less stressful, and more practical to acquire the help of a seasoned divorce attorney to ensure all legal requirements are met without error. Keep in mind that the divorce process is substantially more complicated if children are involved. At Schwartz | White, our experienced Boca Raton family law attorneys are standing by and ready to answer your questions. Call 561-391-9943 today.