Throughout my 10 years of practicing law, I’ve noticed an increase in self-represented litigants. There are so many resources out there, making the legal process smoother for those who have the courage to handle their own legal matters without the assistance of an attorney. (We are happy to say we have contributed to these helpful resources!)
If you are thinking of filing an action on your own–whether that be a divorce, paternity, or any legal action in court–it is always recommended that you seek the assistance and advice of an attorney. There are certain rights you may not be aware of that you may risk waiving.
But what if your case was “simple”? Is there a risk of filing an action myself?
Yes. There is always a risk if you are not a professional. However, with the help of all the resources and education out there, you may be able to effectively represent yourself.
Here are some steps with corresponding resources to help you get started:
1. Know the type of action you are filing:
The documents required for a filing are based on the type of action you are initiating.
For example, if your case is a simple divorce with no kids and no property, you will need the following to initiate an action:
- A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage;
- Required Information Sheet; and
- Notice of Related Cases
A Civil Cover Sheet will be automatically generated through the Florida E-filing Portal System. this document will be included with the rest as part of the packet to be served with the Summons.
- A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage;
- Required Information Sheet;
- Notice of Related Cases; and
- Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
Before you file, the Petition and UCCJEA must be signed and notarized.
And remember, these documents are required to initiate the action. There are other documents that will be needed to complete the case when kids are involved, such as a Parenting Plan and a Certificate of Completion of Parenting Course Certificate.
2. Where to file:
In most cases, your case 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. Here’s a list of all the Counties in Florida, with a link to the Court’s website:
- First Circuit – Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton
- Second Circuit – Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla
- Third Circuit – Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor
- Fourth Circuit – Clay, Duval and Nassau
- Fifth Circuit – Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter
- Sixth Circuit – Pasco and Pinellas
- Seventh Circuit – Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia
- Eighth Circuit – Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union
- Ninth Circuit – Orange and Osceola
- Tenth Circuit – Hardee, Highlands, and Polk
- Eleventh Circuit – Miami-Dade
- Twelfth Circuit – DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota
- Thirteenth Circuit – Hillsborough
- Fourteenth Circuit – Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington
- Fifteenth Circuit – Palm Beach
- Sixteenth Circuit – Monroe
- Seventeenth Circuit – Broward
- Eighteenth Circuit – Brevard and Seminole
- Nineteenth Circuit – Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie
- Twentieth Circuit – Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee
3. How to file:
Once your forms are complete, you can file them electronically through the E-Filing Portal. Of course, you can file your documents in person; however, make sure you check the Court’s website (in the County you will be filing in) for in-person protocols, as most Courts are currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- To file a case electronically you’ll need:
- To register with the appropriate E-Filing Portal. Click here to create your account. Click here for a video on how to register.
- Please choose “Self-Represented Litigant” as the filer role when registering.
- Have files appropriately formatted. (PDF)
- Know the court where the case is pending. (See Step #2)
- You should know filing deadlines.
- Check the relevant portions of Florida’s Civil Procedure to make sure you are filing everything you need to file!
For more information on how to prepare for Court on your own, visit the Florida Court’s website; and check out their video:
Check out our YouTube page for more information and resources!