How to File for Divorce in Fort Myers, Florida

By Karen Adams

In Florida, the official term for divorce is "dissolution," and it is a no-fault state, which means couples must prove only that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" to divorce. In Fort Myers, either spouse may start the process by filing an initial petition with the Lee County Clerk of Court and must later appear before a judge to receive a final decision. Filing for divorce without a lawyer in Fort Myers can be achieved if you agree with your spouse on assets and child custody.

Meet the requirements to file for uncontested dissolution: Either the wife or husband purchases the forms, then both parties must complete them. At least one spouse must have been a Florida resident for at least six months. Both spouses must agree on all division of property. You and your spouse have no minor or dependent children together and the wife is not now pregnant. If you do have children, you must file an Uncontested Dissolution of Marriage with Children form, agree on custody and attend a sanctioned parenting class. In addition, all children between ages 6 and 17 must attend a sanctioned children's class. For class information, visit EducationPrograms.com.

Prepare the forms and information you will need to file: names, addresses and social security numbers for both spouses, proof of residency such as driver's license or voter's registration card, marital license, financial information such as income, mortgage and expense records, a list of assets and debt or credit information (also known as liability information). If children are involved, gather addresses where the children lived the past five years and both spouse's monthly expenses for children.

File the forms for dissolution online at LeeClerk.org or take the paperwork listed above to the Lee County Justice Center at 1700 Monroe Street in Fort Myers. The Civil Division is on the second floor. In Florida, divorces are filed through county courthouses. The Clerk of Court provides a link to filing the forms online at TurboCourt.com. Choose Lee County and Fort Myers, then register with your name and begin the dissolution form process. Depending on whether you have children, as well as the number of assets and liabilities, the process takes a little more or a little less than an hour. Forms cost 15 cents per page, either online or in person. For more information, call the Civil Division at 239-533-5000.

Inform your spouse that they need to answer the dissolution of marriage. Your spouse can answer the form online through LeeClerk.org by choosing "Responding to Petition for Dissolution." Provide your spouse the case number that you received so they can respond online. If they do not wish to respond online, the papers must be served to your spouse by someone other than yourself. Provide evidence that your spouse received the papers. A photograph or statement by the person who served the papers are sufficient evidence that your spouse was served.

Appear before a judge to receive approval of the dissolution. After you file and all parties agree, a judge still must hear your case and agree with your dissolution. The couple presents the settlement agreement, and the judge approves or modifies it. Any disagreement over assets or custody of children means a preliminary trial must be scheduled.

Prepare documented evidence that proves fault of the spouse or negligence in terms of child custody if a disagreement arises and a preliminary trial is needed. Criminal records, financial statements and eyewitness accounts help to solidify your case. In terms of child abuse or neglect, ask the judge for a comprehensive home study, which examines how the living situation is at your home and determines if there is any abuse. You may also ask the judge to order a psychological evaluation for both parents and children.

Schedule the final hearing and subpoena the home study evaluator and psychologist to the final hearing. The judge hears their statements in addition to any other evidence and makes a final decision on the contested dissolution.