Florida allows its residents two paths toward divorce – a simplified divorce and a regular divorce. The process for both begins with filing the appropriate paperwork at your county courthouse. Which type of divorce you choose depends on several factors, such as whether you have minor children or if you and your spouse can agree on how to divide the marital property.
Florida Divorce Process
Florida is a no-fault state, meaning you don’t have to prove that your spouse did something wrong to cause the divorce. You just have to admit that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." You or your spouse must have lived in Florida for six months prior to the filing date, and you must show you are married. Marital property includes all of your assets acquired during the marriage, such as personal possessions, real estate and income, as well as outstanding debts.
Simple Dissolution of Marriage
Both parties ask, or petition, the court for the simplified divorce in Florida, but you must meet certain requirements to do so. You can use this path to divorce if you don’t have any minor or dependent children and the wife isn’t pregnant. Both parties have to agree to a simple divorce, one spouse must have lived in the state for six months, you can show you’re married and you agree the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Each spouse must complete a financial declaration, or affidavit, and enter into an agreement that settles your property issues. You’re both required to attend the final divorce hearing. Couples can often accomplish a simplified divorce without the help of an attorney. All the appropriate forms are available at Broward County Circuit Court. If you have a minor child or don’t otherwise meet all of the above requirements, you must pursue a regular divorce.
Regular Dissolution of Marriage
A regular divorce in Florida has two categories, uncontested and contested. In both cases, one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form with the court. The petition states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and includes what the filing spouse, or petitioner, expects regarding child custody and support, property division and other pertinent matters.
When couples can agree on the terms of property division and child custody issues, it’s considered an uncontested divorce. When couples cannot reach an agreement, it becomes a contested divorce that the court must resolve. At that point, the judge can order the parties to attend a mediation process with a third person to try and resolve their differences. If mediation doesn’t work, the divorce case then proceeds to a trial before the judge.
Filing for Divorce in Broward County
Broward County allows you to buy the necessary forms for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in kit form at the Pro Se Self Help Unit at the Broward County Central Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Judicial Complex West Building, Domestic Violence Division, 201 SE 6th Street, 2nd Floor, Room 02140.
Once you’ve filled out the forms, file them with the clerk of the court. Filing fees are due at this time in the form of cash or money order – personal checks are not accepted. You must provide four extra copies of your hearing form and two self-addressed envelopes so the clerk can send you copies of the hearing notice by mail. The clerk sets a hearing date. Hearings occur no sooner than 20 days from the time of filing.
You can also purchase forms required for a regular divorce at the Pro Se Self Help Unit noted above. Because of the legal complexity of child custody and other factors in a regular divorce, it’s generally recommended you seek the counsel of an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, your local legal aid society may offer legal assistance or provide names of attorneys in your area who work for reduced or no fees.