6 Important Things to Know If You're Getting a Divorce in Florida
The state of Florida imposes several noteworthy requirements for couples who wish to get divorced. Here are six top pieces of information you need to reach a marital settlement agreement and get divorce papers in Florida.
1. Residency requirements
Like most states, Florida divorce law has a residency requirement. At least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months before the divorce. You can prove Florida residency with a copy of a Florida-issued ID card or voter registration. Or, you can provide a sworn affidavit from someone attesting to the fact that one spouse has lived in Florida for at least six months.
Why is there a residency requirement?
States have residency requirements for a reason. They’re aiming to prevent one spouse from seeking a divorce without the other spouse’s knowledge or trying to get a “leg up” on the divorce proceedings. States have an interest in making sure both spouses are informed of and have a say in their divorce process, even if one spouse doesn’t agree with or want the divorce.
2. Grounds for divorce
Florida divorce law allows for no-fault divorce. This means that, when providing your grounds for divorce, you only have to state that your marriage is irretrievably broken. You don’t have to provide further details or prove that your spouse was at fault in any way.
Uniquely, Florida also allows another type of no-fault divorce where one spouse is mentally incapacitated. A Florida court must have made a determination of incapacity at least three years prior to the initiation of divorce proceedings. The court must also appoint a guardian to defend the incapacitated spouse and protect their interests.
Like most states, Florida allows for fault divorces as well. Grounds for divorce in a fault situation can include the following:
Fault divorces are more expensive and time-consuming than no-fault divorces. However, if one spouse did something that directly contributed to the divorce, the other spouse may be able to get additional assets due to their spouse’s actions. Fault divorce is often only considered in extreme cases.
3. Property division
Florida courts aim for an equitable distribution of property and debt in divorce. This does not mean things are divided 50/50. Like the majority of the country, the state of Florida is an equitable distribution state. This differs from community property states where marital property and debt are divided 50/50.
When determining what is equitable, Florida courts consider the following:
- Each spouse's contributions to the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse's financial resources and earning potential
- Separate property of each spouse
Marital property vs. separate property
In a Florida divorce, a distinction exists between marital property and separate property. Marital property refers to assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage, while separate property refers to nonmarital assets – property owned before the marriage or received as an inheritance or gift.
For example, imagine that Alice and Bob are getting divorced in Florida. Alice inherited a large sum of money from her parents prior to getting married, so this money would be considered her separate property as long as it was never commingled with marital funds.
Various factors are taken into account when determining which property is marital and which is separate. Notably, if one spouse significantly contributed to the value of the other spouse's separate property during the marriage, it may be considered jointly owned. Additionally, the Florida court may look at factors such as the period of time the couple was married and whether there was significant financial interdependence between them.
The difference between marital and separate property can have far-reaching implications in Florida divorce. It is important to understand these concepts in order to navigate the divorce process effectively and fairly.
4. Child custody
Under Florida law, parents can agree on a parenting plan for their minor children in their post-divorce life. If they can’t agree on a timesharing schedule, however, the Florida court will step in. The court must consider the best interest of the child when making a child custody determination.
Physical custody vs. legal custody
There is a significant difference between physical custody and legal custody in Florida. Physical custody refers to which parent has physical responsibility for the child, while legal custody refers to which parent has decision-making authority for the child. Joint legal custody is the norm in Florida unless one parent is deemed unfit to make decisions for their child, as in the case of domestic violence.
Joint physical custody
In Florida, joint physical custody is sometimes referred to as shared parenting responsibilities. Both parents have the right to spend time with their child. One parent may have more overnight visits with their child than the other, but the parents share in the parenting responsibilities.
In a joint physical custody situation, child-rearing costs are generally borne by the parent who currently has the child. However, many larger costs, such as childcare, schooling, and medical care, can be shared.
5. Child support
- The economic circumstances of both parents
- The custody arrangement
- Whether the primary physical custody parent receives alimony
- Any special needs of the dependent children
- Agreed terms in a parenting plan
The courts will consider any other relevant factors and may also consider other options for support, such as having one parent bear the costs of medical care through their employer’s insurance.
If you’re receiving child support payments from your child’s other parent and they fall behind, you cannot withhold their time with your child. Courts frown upon this and specifically state that custody and support are separate matters. Your only course of action in this situation would be to file a motion with the court.
Like child support, alimony in Florida is not guaranteed. Florida divorce may lead to several types of alimony, the most common of which is rehabilitative alimony. This alimony award generally lasts for a fixed amount of time – sometimes only as long as the divorce proceedings last and sometimes for several years. Payments may be monthly, in a lump sum, or a combination of the two.
Another type of rehabilitative alimony is awarded when one spouse needs time and resources to get back on their feet after divorce. These payments might help cover costs for education or training for appropriate employment, or they might simply provide financial assistance as the recipient transitions to post-divorce life. This type of spousal support is often awarded when one spouse contributed in non-financial ways to the marriage or gave up a career to raise minor children.
Florida courts look at various factors when determining alimony awards:
- The length of the marriage
- Each spouse's earning capacity
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Each spouse's separate property
- Each spouse's contribution to the marriage
- Any child custody arrangements or child support payments
- Whether one spouse contributed to the divorce
- The ability of one spouse to provide spousal support and the need for the other spouse to receive it
If you have questions about the divorce process in Florida or would just like someone to talk to about your situation, please schedule a free 15-minute call with one of our account coordinators. At Hello Divorce, we provide a range of supportive services to divorcing couples, from free downloadable worksheets and checklists to an online cooperative divorce plan that includes five hours of mediation.
Our goal is to help our clients get through the emotional and legal process of divorce without the exorbitant attorney’s fees and stress they’d experience with an expensive family law firm or divorce attorney. Read more about our plans and the flat-rate a la carte services we offer.
2023 Florida Statues. Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature.