How to Get A Divorce In Florida: 7 Steps to the Process
Here are the steps to get a divorce (dissolution of marriage) in Florida:
Step 1: Filing the Petition
File the petition. The petition is filed in the circuit court and must state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The court filing will either be in the county that both spouses last lived together or the county in which one currently lives.
Step 2: Answering the Petition
After the Petition is filed and served the responding spouse must file an answer to the petition for the dissolution of marriage within 20 days in order to avoid default. The answer, which often includes a counter-petition, will include what the other spouse agrees with or denies in the petition, and can include additional matters to present to the court.
At any time during the divorce either party may ask for protective orders, restraining orders, and/or temporary orders involving child custody, child support, and spousal support.
Step 3: Gathering Additional Information: The Divorce Discovery Process
The discovery process includes a range of actions. This is one of the most crucial steps in the divorce process and where a divorce attorney can gather additional key information for the outcome of the divorce. It is common for one party in a divorce to not disclose all assets to the other party.
In addition to a financial affidavit, which must be filed within 45 days of the petition being served, each party must provide mandatory disclosures. Mandatory disclosures include the following documents:
- Income tax returns
- Proof of income
- Credit card statements
- Bank account statements
- Retirement account statements
- Other account statements that reflect debt
Step 4: Mediation: Negotiating the Terms of the Divorce
Throughout most of Florida, divorce mediation is required under the law if an agreement has not yet been reached or there are certain issues with the petition for the dissolution of marriage still unresolved. If you are a victim of domestic violence, mediation may not be required.
Step 5: Agreeing on a Parenting Plan
Deciding on the parenting plan is one of the final steps in a divorce involving children. The plan will include multiple areas concerning the child (or children,) including each parent’s involvement in raising the children, a schedule for time-sharing, how the communication with the children will be handled, and which parent will be in charge of filling out important forms for school, health care, and other related forms such as enrollments in sports teams, camps, etc. Establishing a Parenting Plan and timesharing schedule is also an important step in determining child support.
Step 6: Going to Trial (Only if Needed)
If the two parties are unable to come to a final agreement on both the financial aspects of the divorce and issues regarding the children (if relevant), the proceedings will need to go to trial. This will be in front of a judge, not a jury.
At the trial, your divorce attorney will represent your rights and interests in front of the judge. This includes, when appropriate, presenting evidence and testimony, as well as cross-examining any witnesses that take the stand. Once the trial has concluded, the judge will make a final decision on any issues that were not settled during negotiations.
Step 7: Finalizing the Divorce
Once all of the parameters of the dissolution of marriage have been negotiated and agreed upon by both parties (or mandated by the court), the final step in a divorce is when the judge signs the “order of dissolution,” which is also called the Final Judgement. If negotiations were successful without going to trial, it is typical in the steps to getting a divorce in Florida for the lawyer of the party who filed the petition for the divorce to draft the judgment for both parties to sign.