Divorce in Florida is known as Dissolution of Marriage.
To file for dissolution of marriage in Florida, either spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing.
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage may be filed with the circuit court in the county where the Petitioner, spouse filing for dissolution, lives. The Respondent, the other spouse, must be notified of the Petition.
If the Respondent files an Answer and/or counter petition which disagrees with or denies anything in the Petition, the Petitioner may file a Notice for Trial and proceed with a contested dissolution.
Final judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered until at least 20 days after the date the Petition was filed, unless the court finds that an injustice would result from this delay.
The Respondent has 20 days to file an Answer the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage after being served. If he/she does not, the Petitioner may file a Motion for Default with the clerk of court, and after filing all the necessary paperwork, set a final hearing. The Petitioner must notify the Respondent of the hearing with a Notice of Hearing.
If the Respondent files an Answer that agrees with the term in the Petition or an Answer and Waiver, and the Petitioner has complied with mandatory disclosure and filed all the necessary paperwork, he/she may set a final hearing. The Petitioner must notify the Respondent of the hearing with a Notice of Hearing.
Florida provides for a streamlined, simplified dissolution procedure, if all the following conditions are met.
After filing the appropriate paperwork, the couple will obtain a date and time for a court appearance from the clerk of court. Both spouses must appear together before the judge at this hearing. At that time, if all papers are in order, the judge may grant a final judgment dissolving the marriage under the simplified dissolution of marriage procedures by signing a Final Judgment of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage which needs to be provided by the parties to the divorce.
Marital Settlement Agreement:
If a couple is able to agree on any or all of the related issues, they are advised to file a Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child(ren) or Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with No Dependent or Minor Child(ren), as applicable. If there are any remaining issues to be settled, they will be settled by a judge at the final hearing.
A wife may request that her maiden name be restored in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and the judge will honor the request.
There are only two grounds for dissolution of marriage in Florida:
When dissolution is sought because the marriage is irretrievably broken and there is a minor child of the marriage, or the Respondent denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken in his/her Answer, the court may take any of the following actions:
Annulment law in Florida is not defined in the statutes. Instead, it is based on years of previous case law.
The following are grounds one may allege to try to obtain an annulment in Florida.
If the couple has consummated the marriage, it is generally seen as ratification and the marriage is no longer voidable, regardless of the previous circumstances. An annulment is filed as a lawsuit and the basic annulment procedure is similar to divorce.
Florida is an equitable distribution state. Statute requires that marital assets and debts be distributed in a fair and equitable manner. Child support, time-sharing, and alimony awards may be considered when the court determines what is fair in the determination of how to divide the property and debts.
The court will consider the following factors when making determinations for property division.
All vested and nonvested benefits, rights and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation and insurance plans and programs are classified as marital property and, therefore, subject to distribution.
Alimony may be granted to either party and is based on the requesting spouse's need and the ability of the other spouse to pay. In Florida, there are four categories of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony. The court may order periodic payments, lump-sum payments, or both.
Marriages are categorized as short-term; moderate-term, or long-term. A short-term marriage is one which has lasted less than seven years. A moderate-term marriage has a duration of more than seven years, but less than 17 years. And a long-term marriage is one which has lasted for 17 years or longer.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is meant to help a spouse make the transition from being married to being single by providing support for legitimate identifiable short-term needs. The length of this type of award may not exceed two years and the duration is not modifiable.
Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help the receiving spouse achieve self-sufficiency by either redeveloping previous skills or credentials; or by acquiring the education, training, or work experience necessary to develop applicable employment skills or credential. A specific and defined rehabilitative plan must be included as part of the order. This type of alimony may be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances, if the receiving party does not comply with the rehabilitative plan or upon completion of the plan.
Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is not appropriate. Its purpose is to provide the receiving party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration. This amount awarded with this type of alimony may be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances. The length of the award, however, is generally not modifiable, except under exceptional circumstances, but may not exceed the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony may be awarded to a spouse who lacks the financial ability to meet his/her needs and the necessities of life as they were established during the marriage. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a long duration marriage, or a moderate duration marriage if appropriate. It may only be awarded after a short duration marriage with exceptional circumstances. Permanent alimony may be modified or terminated if there is a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive, cohabitative relationship between the receiving spouse and a person not related by blood or affinity.
Bridge-the-gap, Durational and Permanent Alimony ends upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the receiving party.
If it is determined that there is a need for alimony by one party and that the other spouse has the ability to pay, the court will then review certain factors to decide on the proper type and amount of alimony to be ordered. These criteria include the following:
The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the relevant circumstances when deciding on the amount for alimony, if any, to be awarded.
If a court finds it necessary, it may order the paying spouse to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy, bond, or some other means of security for the alimony award.
To receive alimony, it must be requested in writing in the original Petition or Counter Petition. If it is not requested in writing before the final hearing, it is waived and cannot be requested later.
Child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. It is public policy that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities and joys of childrearing.
The court gives preference to shared parental responsibility, unless it finds that this would be detrimental to the child(ren), such as when a parent has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher involving domestic violence. A parent with this type of conviction may be prohibited from shared parental responsibility, including time-sharing with the child(ren), and decisions made regarding the child.
Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the minor child(ren) and the circumstances of the family, including the following criteria:
If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that this evidence was considered when evaluation the best interests of the child.
A court may order electronic communication between a parent and a child.
Florida uses the Income Shares Model to calculate child support obligations. The guidelines are based on the combined income of both parents and take into account the financial contributions of both parents.
Child support orders shall contain a provision for health insurance for the minor child(ren) when health insurance is reasonable in cost and accessible to the child(ren). Reasonable in cost generally means that the incremental cost of adding health insurance for the child(ren) does not exceed five percent of the gross income of the parent responsible for providing the health insurance.
If a court finds it necessary, to protect a child support award, it may order the paying spouse to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy, bond, or some other means of security.
Florida does not recognize legal separation.
The court does have provisions addressing spousal and child support, custody and visitation unconnected with a dissolution action. A spouse who is living separate from his/her spouse and minor child can get court judgment of obligation to maintain his/her spouse and child(ren), if any. The court will hear and settle his/her financial obligations to the spouse and child and establish a parenting plan for them.
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