Grounds for Divorce in Florida
Getting divorced in Florida? If so, you need to understand the legal grounds for your divorce. As a no-fault divorce state, Florida has a unique set of rules and regulations that govern the dissolution of marriage.
What are the grounds for divorce in Florida?
In Florida, the grounds for divorce are more straightforward than in some other states. This is because Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state. That means you don't have to claim a fault grounds for divorce; you don’t have to prove that one person did something wrong, such as domestic violence or impotency.
There are only two legal grounds for divorce in Florida:
- The relationship is irretrievably broken: This essentially means the marriage cannot be fixed; you have no hope of reconciliation. Most divorces in Florida fall under this category. It's enough for one spouse to cite the breakdown of the marriage and to say it cannot be fixed. No one has to be “at fault.”
- Mental incapacity of one of the parties: If one spouse is mentally incapacitated and was declared as such for at least three years before the divorce filing, this can be used as grounds for divorce. The declaration must come from a judge and not just a doctor.
It's important to note that marital misconduct (like adultery) can impact other aspects of the divorce proceedings, such as alimony or marital property division. However, it does not impact your grounds for divorce, and such an allegation is never required for divorce in Florida.
What to do before filing for divorce in Florida
Before filing for divorce in Florida, there are several requirements and steps to consider:
To start the divorce process in Florida, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months prior to filing.
Prepare the necessary documents
The party seeking the divorce (the petitioner) must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the circuit court clerk in their county. This document states that the marriage has experienced an irretrievable breakdown. It also outlines what the petitioner wants in terms of division of property, child custody, and spousal support (alimony). The petitioner must also pay a filing fee.
No legal separation requirement
Unlike some states, Florida does not require couples to be legally separated before filing for divorce. However, if the couple is physically separated and one spouse wants to formalize the separation, they can file a petition for support unconnected with the dissolution of marriage, asking the court to decide on issues like child custody and support, and alimony.
If there are minor children involved, Florida law requires both parents to complete a parenting class before the divorce can be finalized. This is to help parents understand the impact of divorce on children.
Each spouse must complete a financial affidavit within 45 days of the service of the divorce petition. The affidavit outlines each party's financial situation, which helps the court make decisions about child support, alimony, and the division of marital assets.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
If the couple agrees on all terms of the divorce, they may qualify for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. This process is faster and requires fewer court appearances. However, both parties must agree on all aspects of the divorce prior to filing. Additionally, they must have no minor children, neither is requesting spousal support, and at least one party must have lived in Florida for the past six months.
Minimizing conflict in divorce
Divorce is stressful for many reasons. Working with your soon-to-be ex-spouse on a settlement agreement can be tense and unpleasant. Mediation or collaborative divorce may help.
In divorce mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) helps the couple resolve disputes and reach an agreement on issues such as property division, child custody, alimony, and any other disputed matters. The mediator does not make decisions for the couple. Rather, they facilitate the couple's communication to help them come to an agreement.
Mediation can be less adversarial and more cost-effective than traditional divorce litigation. Consider this option if you don’t want to take your divorce case before a judge.
In a collaborative divorce, each spouse hires an attorney trained in collaborative law. The couple and their attorneys work together to resolve all issues without court intervention.
Other professionals, such as financial advisors and mental health specialists, may be involved in the process. This approach prioritizes cooperation over confrontation.
Alternatives to divorce
In Florida, there are options that may be more suitable for couples who are unsure about ending their marriage or who wish to avoid the potential conflict and cost of a traditional divorce. Here are some alternatives:
Separation: Although Florida does not officially recognize legal separation, couples can live separately and make informal arrangements or use postnuptial agreements to outline terms for things like child custody, property division, and financial support.
Marriage counseling or therapy: For those who are unsure about divorce or who want to try to save their marriage, professional counseling or therapy may be an option. A trained therapist can help couples communicate better and resolve conflicts.
Navigating the complexities of divorce in Florida is a tall order. There is much to understand, and the journey can seem overwhelming. At Hello Divorce, we’re here to help. We offer many online services and divorce plans as well as a multitude of free resources to help you along the way. Have questions? Schedule a free 15-minute phone call.