If you want to file for divorce in Florida, either you or your spouse must reside for 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition.
Residency exists upon showing that: (1) a spouse intended to make Florida his/her actual permanent residence; and (2) the spouse engaged in conduct fulfilling that intent. These two prongs must exist concurrently.
First Prong—Intent to make Florida one’s actual permanent residence:
The first prong of the test is satisfied by showing that the spouse claiming Florida residency had the bona fide intent to make Florida his or her actual permanent residence during the six months prior to filing. An intent to reside in Florida at some future time is not enough.
The spouse’s intent must have been to maintain a physical place of residence in Florida during the six months, not an intention to acquire such a residence in the future. Also, there must be an intent during the six months preceding the filing of the petition to continue residing in Florida indefinitely.
Second Prong—action towards making Florida one’s actual permanent residence:
The second prong of the test requires the showing of affirmative acts that point conclusively to the spouse’s desire to make Florida his/her permanent residence. The acts and the intent must occur at the same time.
The facts of each case are important to determining whether a residence exists. For example, a 1955 Florida Supreme Court case held that establishing residence will usually involve demonstrating “a variety of acts or declarations, all of which must be weighed in the particular case as evidence would be weighed upon any other subject”. See Bloomfield v. St. Petersburg Beach, 82 So. 2d 364, 369 (Fla. 1955).
Although actual bodily presence in the state for the entire six months is not required, there must be other evidence from which it objectively appears that the spouse claiming residency intended to reside in Florida. The intent is key.
Such evidence usually includes proof that the individual spouse or the parties maintained a physical home in Florida during the six-month period.
What if I live in Florida for 6 months just to divorce? Would that qualify me as a resident?
No. Evidence that a spouse has lived in Florida for the required six-month period will not establish residency if their sole purpose for living in Florida was to initiate a dissolution action in the state.
A court may find that a spouse’s sole purpose for being present in Florida is to establish residency for jurisdiction purposes if the spouse is unable to produce evidence that corroborates his or her testimony regarding the length and purpose of residency, and if other evidence indicates that the spouse has a special interest in petitioning for dissolution, such as a relationship with a third person.
What if you have a vacation home in Florida?
The residency requirement cannot be established by the presence of a vacation/temporary home in Florida.
However, having a vacation coupled with other acts showing the intent to make Florida your permanent residence may be sufficient to prove Florida residency. For example, in a First District Court of Appeals case, a spouse’s presence in the parties’ Florida beach house several times a month during the year preceding filing was sufficient to show residency, when: (1) his occasional visits during that year to the county where the beach house was located; (2) his continuous presence in Florida for 30 days before the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage; and (3) his other acts indicating intent to reside in Florida.
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