Divorce is finality. Many divorce lawsuits are bitterly contested, at least during the beginning. Many spouses, however, are surprised to learn that settlement is possible. Divorce settlements usually occur in one of two ways. Either both parties have fought for so long that they are both ready to give up the ghost, or the parties begin by filing for an uncontested divorce.
An uncontested divorce is available to spouses who can mutually agree on the terms of their divorce. Agreement can be extremely difficult for two spouses who dislike each other enough to want a divorce, but it is possible. Where the spouses can agree on a divorce settlement ahead of time, it can save the spouses, time, money, and a great deal of stress in the long run.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Florida uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Florida Defined
Like many states, Florida law contains specific procedures for the filing of an uncontested divorce. In Florida, there are two types of uncontested divorces: simplified summary no-fault divorces and standard divorces by agreement. A simplified summary no-fault divorce is designed to be an in-and-out procedure; however, not everyone will qualify to receive a summary divorce. Only spouses with no children born of the marriage and who meet specific property restrictions can file for summary divorce. All other spouses must file for a standard uncontested divorce. You can read more about summary divorce on the Florida Courts website.1
Standard uncontested divorce filings
Requirements for Seeking a Florida Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Florida, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Florida divorce attorneyor family lawyer.
First, the spouses must meet Florida’s divorce residency requirement. Before either spouse files for divorce under Florida law, at least one spouse must have been living in Florida for at least six months.2
Next, the spouses must demonstrate that sufficient grounds exist to allow a divorce. Florida is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the court only has to be convinced that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.3 An irretrievable breakdown simply means that the marriage is not working anymore and there is no chance for reconciliation between the spouses.
Finally, the spouses must agree on the terms of the divorce. This is most commonly accomplished by the creation of a legally-binding marital settlement agreement. The marital settlement agreement should be in writing and signed by both spouses.
On Spousal Support and Marital Settlement Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal marital settlement agreement. A marital settlement agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A marital settlement agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed marital settlement agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and maybe helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any marital settlement agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
A fully-completed marital settlement agreement will address at least all of the following issues in the divorce:
- Division of property (including the marital home, cars, and pets);
- Division of marital debts;
- Spousal support; and
- If applicable, child custody, visitation, and child support.
In general, the Florida judge hearing your divorce case will approve almost any agreement you and your spouse come to; however, the judge will not approve an agreement that is unfair to one spouse. Additionally, the court will not grant any agreement that it believes is unfair to any children involved in the divorce process. The most commonly altered term of marital settlement agreements are child support provisions. In general, spouses should adhere to the amounts recommended by the court’s child support guidelines worksheet.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Florida
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows (this procedural overview assumes a standard uncontested divorce, not a summary no-fault divorce):
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- For spouses seeking an uncontested divorce in Florida without the assistance of an attorney, the first step will be agreeing on the terms of the divorce and preparing the required divorce paperwork. Fortunately, the Florida Courts’ website has a set of filing instruction and sample divorce forms that you and your spouse can use to file for divorce in any Florida court.4
- Next, you and your spouse must determine which court is proper for your divorce filing. You and your spouse should file in the Circuit Court in the county in which you meet the residency requirement.
- The filing spouse should petition for dissolution of marriage. Upon filing of the petition, the filing spouse will be asked to fill out an anonymous questionnaire for research purposes.
- The filing spouse must then serve the non-filing spouse with the petition for dissolution of marriage. The responding spouse should file answer admitting that the marriage is irretrievably broken and agreeing to the separation agreement.
- At this point, it becomes relevant whether children were born of the marriage. If no children were born of the marriage, the court will immediately and grant your divorce decree under the terms of your agreement after a short court hearing. If children were born of the marriage, however, the court might require the couple to see a marriage counselor and delay making a ruling on the divorce for up to three months, although it technically does not have to do either.
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- Instructions for Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.901(a), Petition for SimplifiedDissolution of Marriage, FLORIDA COURTS, http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/293/urlt/901a.pdf
- Fla. Stat. § 61.021.
- Fla. Stat. § 61.052.
- Instructions for Florida Supreme CourtApproved Family Law Form 12.901(b)(1), Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child(ren), FLORIDA COURTS, http://www.flcourts.org/core/fileparse.php/533/urlt/901b1.pdf.