You’ve heard the statistic that “50 percent of marriages end in divorce.” That stat originated the 1980’s, and, according to a recent Times Magazine article, the percentage of divorces has dropped. Today, it is estimated that approximately 42-45% of marriages in the United States end in divorce.
Grounds for Divorce: What is Required?
People choose to divorce for many reasons. Whether it is a good or bad reason, the State of Florida is a “no fault” state. This means a spouse does not have to provide a specific reason for divorcing their partner. You are only required to state that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Where to Begin:
So, where do you start if you want to get a divorce? Before we get into the process, we highly recommend that you seek assistance of counsel so that you have a better understanding of the process, potential issues, and your rights. If you choose to represent yourself, here are some tips that will lead you in the right direction on where to begin:
- What County do you open your divorce case with? In most cases, your divorce will need to be opened in the Circuit Court of the County that you or your spouse has been living in for the past six (6) months.
- The Petition. Divorce proceedings are initiated with the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition is the legal document that opens up the action, with a statement of what you are requesting the Court to do. Depending on your circumstances, the Petition must include, for example, the names and birthdays of any minor children born during the marriage; a statement on whether you and your spouse have marital liabilities or marital assets; whether you are requesting any type of monetary assistance (such as temporary support or alimony); and the grounds for dissolution of marriage (such as the marriage is irretrievably broken).
- Check List: Make sure you have included all the necessary and supporting documents required to be filed with the Petition. For example, Florida law requires you to submit a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) if there are minor children in the marriage.
Documents are ready. Now what?
- Where to File. Petitions need to be filed with the Clerk of Courts in the County where you are initiating the action. Click here to find your Court. Some Courts, such as in Miami-Dade County, require Petitions by self-represented individuals to be reviewed by the Self-Help Center for a minimal fee. Be sure to have extra copies of all documents filed–a copy for yourself and another to be provided to your spouse. Please refer to #5 below if you choose to file through Florida’s E-filing Portal System.
- Create an account with the Florida E-Filing Portal. All Florida Courts accept pleadings and documents filed through the Florida E-filing Portal System. However, you must set up an account. Click here to create your account.
- Filing Fee. The filing fee for filing a divorce is $409. A service fee is added to Petitions filed through the Florida E-Filing Portal System. Some individuals may have this fee waived if said individual is determined indigent by the Court. You must submit an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status with your Petition to possibly qualify.
- Process Server. You should be receiving your case number shortly after filing the Petition. When received, add the case number to the documents you will serve on your spouse. Florida law requires a party initiating an action to “serve” the documents via a process server. So, contact a process server to deliver the documents to your spouse once you have the case number. Your spouse is required to file a written response to your Petition within 20 days after being served.
If your divorce is contested, meaning that there are issues that you and your spouse do not agree on, we strongly recommend that you obtain assistance of counsel. Most counties have Self-Help Centers that may assist you for a low fee.
If you have questions about filing for divorce, it’s best to ask a qualified family attorney. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation
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