How to Divorce in Florida without Lawyers
If the situation is right, a divorce in Florida can be performed without lawyer involvement. Follow each step carefully if you take this approach, and research each step further as you perform it.
Your options for divorce without a lawyer include uncontested divorce, divorce mediation, and getting a type of divorce called a simplified dissolution of marriage. These options are good for married couples who either agree 100% on how to settle their marital estate or are open to negotiation and cooperation.
Without lawyer involvement, the divorce process requires a few steps you will likely have to take yourself.
Paying a filing fee
If you are filing divorce paperwork in Florida, know that there is a divorce filing fee of approximately $400. The filing fee can sometimes be waived, depending on your situation. If you would like to ask for a fee waiver, you can file an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status form along with the appropriate divorce documents.
Filing and serving
If you are the Petitioner who initiates the divorce paperwork, you must first fill out the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Unless you are filing jointly with your spouse, you must then have divorce papers served upon your spouse. There are three methods of service you can choose from: hiring a deputy sheriff to do it, hiring a professional process server to do it, or delivering the papers to your spouse via certified mail. (Note that even if your spouse understands and agrees with what is happening, you must have them officially served.)
In Florida, a joint petition for divorce can be filed by a couple seeking a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. Not all couples are eligible for this type of divorce. See the section below titled Simplified Dissolution of Marriage for more information.
After the divorce papers are served, a Respondent in Florida has up to 20 days to file their answer to the petition. If they agree with all of the proposed divorce terms in the petition, they may simply agree in their answer. However, if they dislike any of the proposed terms, they can counter the petition with their own ideas and demands.
What about annulment?
Annulment is rare, but it does happen at times. A Petitioner can seek to convince a judge that their marriage was never valid in the first place. If the Florida court agrees that it is a void marriage, an annulment may ensue, which essentially erases the marriage as if it never occurred.
Negotiating with spouse
After all the Petition and Response (if there is one) have been filed, the court will confirm whether the couple is eligible for an uncontested divorce. If so, the couple can begin to make big decisions about their marital settlement (if they haven’t done so already). These big decisions include what to do with the marital home, marital vehicles, and marital debt. If decisions about child custody, visitation, and support are needed, they will need to decide these, too.
If you’re not seeking a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage (see below), spousal support – also known as alimony or maintenance – may also need to be calculated at this point.
If you want the perks of an uncontested divorce (no lawyers, less cost, less stress) but can’t quite agree on everything, don’t panic! You and your spouse may find success through divorce mediation. Skip to the section called More Information about Divorce Mediation for more information.
Finalizing the uncontested divorce
In Florida, both you and the Respondent will need to appear in court to finalize your divorce. Typically, this is scheduled at the earliest possible date after a mandatory 30-day waiting period. There will be some variation in the specifics, depending on the court’s calendar. Generally, both people must appear for the hearing.
Florida’s Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
As mentioned above, some people seeking divorce in Florida may qualify for a simplified dissolution of marriage. To qualify, the following must be true:
- You and/or your spouse have lived in Florida for six months before filing for a dissolution.
- You both agree that the marriage cannot be saved.
- Neither party has any children together who are minor or dependent, nor is either party pregnant.
- Both parties agree on how to divide assets for the divorce.
- Neither party is seeking alimony or spousal support.
- Both parties willingly give up their right to a trial and appeal.
- Both parties willingly go to a clerk’s office to sign the divorce petition, without needing to necessarily go together.
- Both parties are willing to go to the final divorce hearing at the same time.
For people who meet the criteria, this type of divorce is often by far the easiest, quickest way for a divorce to occur. This is largely because there is inherently no or very little resistance in the process. Both parties agree to how it should go and waive their rights to a trial or appeal of the divorce as a result.
In essence, a simplified dissolution of marriage is a divorce solution designed for parties who can largely agree on how a divorce ought to proceed. While you or your ex may not be happy about the divorce, it is fairly common that both parties can at least agree on what a fair divorce looks like.
Can mediation help me get divorced without a lawyer?
It’s possible that a mediator could help you and your spouse avoid the need to hire an expensive Florida divorce attorney. In mediation, you and the person you are divorcing discuss your issues and interests with the help of a third person, the mediator. This person is a trained and skilled neutral arbiter who guides couples toward a result they both find acceptable.
Can I get a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in Florida if we have minor children?
You do not qualify for this type of simplified divorce if you and your spouse share minor children. However, you can still pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida. Even if you have kids, if the two of you are amicable, it is possible to create a marital settlement agreement you’re both happy with and get divorced without a lawyer.
Is a mediator a lawyer?
Although some mediators are also lawyers, it’s important to know that a mediator will not provide you with legal advice, nor will they provide you with therapy or counseling. They are there to facilitate communication and healthy discussion.
In some cases, the Florida court will mandate that a couple try mediation before they get divorced. However, it’s important to note that a mediator can’t force a decision. If no agreement can be reached, divorce mediation may sometimes fall through. In such a case, the parties may need to go through a more traditional divorce process.
It’s important to remember that no one gets everything they want out of a divorce. Each party likely has to give up some of their desires in order to reach a final agreement. A willingness to compromise and find a middle ground can save each party extensive amounts of time, stress, and money.
ReferencesApplication for Determination of Civil Indigent Status. (July 2014) Florida Courts.
Annulment. Florida Courts.
Mediation in Florida. (June 2023) Florida Courts.
Instructions for Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.901(a) Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage (02/18). (February 2018) Florida Courts.