DIY Divorce in Florida
Getting divorced in Florida? A DIY divorce can be a viable option for those seeking a straightforward and cost-effective divorce process.
What is a DIY divorce?
A do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce is one in which individuals handle their divorce process without the direct legal representation of a divorce attorney. This method is typically suitable for uncontested divorces where both parties agree on all major issues such as property division, child custody, and spousal support.
The primary reason someone might choose a DIY divorce is to save money. Hiring a lawyer for divorce proceedings can be costly, and a DIY divorce allows for significant savings. It gives individuals more control over their divorce process, potentially making it less stressful.
But a DIY divorce isn't for everyone. Cases involving domestic violence, deception, or complex financial situations may require professional legal assistance. Mistakes in a DIY divorce could lead to long-term consequences, so it's crucial to thoroughly research and understand the process.
What is the procedure for filing DIY divorce papers in Florida?
Filing for a DIY divorce in Florida involves several steps, starting with deciding whether you're eligible for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. This option is available to couples who meet certain requirements and can result in a quicker divorce process, typically around 30 days from filing.
You'll need to file either a Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage or a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the circuit court clerk. In either case, you’ll need to pay a filing fee when you file your petition. The fee is usually less for a simplified dissolution.
Once the court clerk accepts your divorce filing, you'll need to serve a copy of the petition and a summons on your spouse. In many cases, a professional process server is best. While this costs money, it ensures your spouse is served correctly and in compliance with Florida law.
Keep in mind that while a DIY divorce can save you money, it also requires a fair amount of work and understanding of the legal process. Be sure to thoroughly research and understand the process before proceeding.
Required forms to serve your spouse
In Florida, the essential forms required to serve your spouse in a divorce process include the following:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: This primary document starts the divorce process. It outlines the reasons for divorce and your desires regarding the division of property, minor child custody, and spousal support.
- Summons: This is an official notice of the divorce proceedings that must be served to your spouse. It informs them that they have 20 days to respond to the petition.
- Family Law Financial Affidavit: Both parties must complete this form, which provides a detailed account of each person's financial situation.
- Notice of Current Address: This form is used to update the court with your current address.
Remember that these are the basic forms. Depending on your situation, you might need additional forms, such as the Notice of Social Security Number form or the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.
All forms must be filled out properly and completely because any errors could delay the divorce process. Remember to keep copies of all documents for your records.
How long does DIY divorce take in Florida?
The duration of a DIY divorce in Florida can vary significantly. It largely depends on whether it's a contested or uncontested divorce.
A contested divorce is one where there are disagreements about the terms. Resolving these disagreements could take anywhere from nine months to three years. In rare cases, a contested divorce process may extend five or six years.
An uncontested divorce where both parties agree on all aspects of the dissolution can be much quicker. The average duration for such a divorce process is around three months.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
Florida law provides for a process called a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, which allows couples to get a quick divorce that takes about 30 days from filing to finalization, provided they agree completely on the terms of their marital settlement agreement.
However, regardless of the type of divorce, Florida requires a minimum 20-day waiting period between filing and getting the final judgment. This is not a lengthy period of time, especially considering that the divorce process can take much longer when children, property, or other issues are involved.
It's important to note that these durations are estimates. The actual time required to complete a Florida divorce varies depending on specific circumstances, including how quickly the parties can agree on their terms and how busy the courts are.
How much does a DIY divorce cost?
On average, the cost of divorce in Florida is $13,500 without children and $20,300 with children. However, for an uncontested divorce where both parties agree to all terms, the costs can be significantly less – even under a thousand dollars.
Court filing fees for divorce in Florida are around $400 regardless of the county you're filing in. Some counties may charge additional fees for litigants who do not have an attorney. Other costs may include a summons fee and process server fees of around $40 to $100.
5 factors that make you a good candidate for DIY divorce
A good candidate for a DIY divorce typically meets the following factors:
- Agreement: Both parties must be in agreement about the divorce and its terms. This includes the division of marital property, child custody, alimony, and other aspects of the separation.
- No-fault state: Florida is a no-fault state. All one must say is that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no chance of restoration. Therefore, you don't need to provide reasons for the divorce such as adultery or abuse.
- Uncontested divorce: Both spouses agree on all aspects of the divorce in this situation. An uncontested divorce is a much simpler way to split up. Some uncontested divorces can be resolved in as little as four weeks.
- Financial disclosure: Both parties are willing and able to fully disclose their financial situations. This is necessary for the equitable division of assets and debts.
- Property ownership: If you and your spouse own a home together, it's important that you agree on what will happen to this property. Generally, if the house was purchased during the marriage, it's divided equitably.
Please note that while these factors might make a DIY divorce more straightforward, it's not for everyone. For instance, if there's a significant disparity in financial resources between the spouses, or if one spouse is fearful of the other, or if there are complex issues to resolve, professional legal help may be necessary.
Tips for a successful DIY divorce in Florida
A successful DIY divorce in Florida requires careful planning and open communication. Here are some tips.
Embrace open communication
Begin by having an open and honest conversation with your spouse about the divorce and its terms. Make sure you both understand the process and agree on all aspects of the dissolution, including property division, child custody, and alimony.
Gather important information
Compile all relevant documents and information needed for the divorce. This includes financial records, property deeds, and information related to dependent children, if applicable.
Understand the requirements
Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements of a DIY divorce in Florida court. For instance, you must meet state residency requirements and be able to show that your marriage is irretrievably broken.
Complete required forms
Make sure you complete all necessary court forms accurately. This includes the Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, if eligible.
Prepare for a court appearance
At least one of the spouses needs to appear in court for the final hearing. Prepare for this appearance by understanding what questions will be asked and what documents you need to bring.
Can I file for divorce in Florida if I got married in another state?
As long as you or your spouse have lived in Florida for at least six months prior to filing the divorce petition, you can file for divorce in Florida, regardless of where you were married.
What if my spouse does not agree with the terms I've proposed in the divorce?
If your spouse does not agree with the terms you've proposed, you may not be able to proceed with a DIY divorce. This is typically a sign that you're heading toward a contested divorce, which can be more complicated and may require legal representation.
Read about the benefits of facilitative mediation.
How do I serve divorce papers to my spouse in Florida?
In Florida, you can serve divorce papers using a process server, the sheriff's department, or any disinterested person 18 years old or older, though this last option is often less desirable. Once served, your spouse will need to respond within 20 days.
What happens if we reconcile and want to cancel the divorce?
If you reconcile and decide to stop the divorce after it has been filed, you can do so by filing a voluntary dismissal to stop the divorce proceedings. If both parties agree to the dismissal, the court will likely grant it.
Can I change my name during the divorce process?
You can request that your name be reverted to a maiden name or a former married name. The change will be finalized when the judge enters the final divorce decree.