Module 4

Legal Steps & Issues

Legal Requirements For Divorce In Florida

The following legal requirements are necessary to file for divorce or paternity in Florida:

  • Residency: One of the parties must have lived in Florida for at least 6 months immediately before filing a Florida Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Paternity Action. Residency may be proved by a valid Florida's driver's license, Florida identification card, or voter's registration card (issue date of document must be at least 6 months before the date the case is actually filed with the clerk of the circuit court). For people who cannot prove their residency through documentation, the court's accept an affidavit from a third party. An Affidavit of Corroborating Witness form is used to prove residency by affidavit. The person signing this form must know that you have lived in the State of Florida for at least 6 months before the date you filed your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

  • Legal Grounds: No judgment of dissolution of marriage shall be granted unless the bonds of marriage are irretrievably broken; or one of the parties has been deemed and adjudged mentally incapacitated in accordance with the provisions of s. 744.311, Florida Statutes. The bonds of marriage are considered irretrievably broken when there are difficulties that cannot be reconciled; and at least one of the parties has decided that the difficulties are permanent.

  • Waiting Period: Florida law does not require a minimum waiting period between the filing for divorce and the granting of a divorce. In Florida, when the Judge has signed the final judgment the divorce is finalized. The parties may remarry after 30 days, as there is technically a 30 day period in which either party may request a rehearing or appeal the court's ruling.

  • Jurisdictional Requirement: An action for divorce or paternity must be filed with the proper court. In Florida, the Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter when at least one party has been a resident of the State of Florida for more than 6 months immediately before filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage; or Petition to Determine Paternity and Related Relief.

Legal Steps Involved in Obtaining a Divorce or Paternity Action.

  • Filing a petition: The first step in the process is filing a petition. Even when both parties agree that they want to get divorced or file for paternity, one of them will have to be the one to file a petition with the court to make the request.

  • Service of Process: The party who files for divorce or paternity (called the Petitioner) needs to have the other party personally served. Personal service is done by a sheriff or private process server by personally hand delivering the petition and related documents to the other party. Once served the proof of service of process is filed in the court record.

  • Response. The party who receives the petition via service of process (called the Respondent) will then need to file an Answer to the petition. In Florida, you have 20 days to answer after being served with a petition. The original Answer is filed in the court record, and a copy of the Answer must be mailed to the other party . The Respondent may agree with or dispute the facts that are alleged in the petition. If there is disagreement as to property division, support, custody, or any other issue, this should be set out in the Answer.

  • Temporary Orders. While a divorce or paternity action is pending, if one parent depends on the other for financial support or will have custody of the children, a trial judge may enter orders dealing with support, possession or maintenance of any individual asset, where the child or children will live, the time the child or children will spend with each parent, and attorney's fees and costs. For example, if a stay at home mom files for divorce or paternity, she will need financial support from her husband or significant other to continue paying the household bills or supporting the children. She may also need a temporary timesharing order and a temporary child support order for the kids. A temporary order is usually granted within a few days and will remain in effect until a full court hearing or until the parties can agree on the terms of their marital settlement agreement.

  • Mediation. If the parties don't agree on all the issues, they will need to try to negotiate their differences. In most Florida counties, the court will order the parties to mediation to try and come to agreements about the children and financial issues. Both parties meet with a neutral third party - the mediator - to try to reach an agreement on all issues involved. A mediator does not decide the outcome of the case and gives no legal advice to either party. If the parties are not able to come to an agreement, the mediator can declare that the mediation resulted in an impasse. If that happens, the case will proceed in court, and the judge will finally make the decisions.

  • Final Judgment. The Final Judgment dissolves the marriage; or establishes paternity. The Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage will spell out the division of property and debt; the schedule of timesharing; the Parenting Plan; child support; and alimony (if any). A Final Judgment of Paternity spells out the schedule of timesharing; the Parenting Plan; and child support; When the parties have been successful in resolving their differences on all issues and have included these terms in a Marital Settlement Agreement; Mediated Settlement Agreement; and Parenting Plan prior to the final hearing, their agreement is presented to the Judge to become part of the Final Judgment. If the agreement created by the parties is in line with legal requirements and both parties entered into it knowingly and willingly, then the judge will almost always approve it by signing the Final Judgment.

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