A lot of spouses who make a decision to divorce in Florida may postpone it because of the costs. Some even end up waiting years to file and spend most of their savings trying to end their marriage. However, there is a quicker and simpler solution that most people do not know is available to them – filing for divorce in Florida without a lawyer.
It is a fact that most of the divorce expenses are those spent on a family attorney. Even in the simplest of cases, they will charge a few thousand for their services. If there is no need for a lawyer, such expenses may be kept well under a thousand, and you only need to reach an agreement with your spouse on the divorce matters not to hire a legal expert.
As long as you and your soon-to-be-ex settled the disputes concerning asset division, alimony, childcare, and child support, you qualify for an uncontested divorce and can represent yourself in court. To do it properly, you need to know what the steps to getting a divorce in Florida are and which obstacles you might encounter on the way.
1. Meet Florida Residency Requirements for Divorce
Before you start the filing process, you need to make sure that you meet all the divorce requirements in Florida. One of them is maintaining a residence in the state for at least 6 months. It would not be necessary for both of you to be residents to start a divorce in Florida – only for the filing party. If you do not meet this requirement, the court will not have jurisdiction over your case, and you will either have to wait or file in the state where you maintain residence at the moment.
2. Get a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The first document that you should file to divorce in Florida is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You will need to find this form and fill in the basic information about you, your spouse, and your children.
Note that Florida divorce paperwork is not limited to a Petition. In fact, to file for divorce in Florida, you need to find and fill out quite a few uncontested divorce forms, depending on your personal case. Some of the common documents required to file for divorce are:
- Financial Affidavit.
- Family Court Cover Sheet.
- Marital Settlement Agreement.
- Notice of Social Security Number.
- Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Disclosure.
There are other mandatory forms you need to search for, and the total number is hard to estimate without looking into the specifics of your family and financial situations. The process of completing the paperwork might also become a challenge due to the legal terms used in it and the number of fields you will have to go through.
Overall, finding and filling out divorce papers in Florida is a rather time-consuming process. There is always a risk of making mistakes, missing fields, or leaving out certain forms by accident. However, you do not need to hire a lawyer to prevent it. There are reliable and legal online services that can choose case-specific documents for you and fill them out in a prompt manner.
3. Sign and Submit the Petition
After you have successfully completed the step of preparing your own Florida divorce forms, you need to print them out. Note that you will have to sign your Petition in front of a notary along with a few other forms that require notarization.
After that, to apply for divorce, you must make copies of the paperwork and file them and the originals with the circuit court in the county where you live or have last resided with your ex. Once you pay the filing fee, the clerk of courts will stamp the documents and give you back the copies while keeping the original files.
4. Deliver a Petition Copy to Your Spouse
As soon as you file, you have to serve divorce papers to your ex, which is a mandatory step of filing divorce in Florida. Serving your spouse means officially notifying them about initiating a marriage dissolution process by providing them with copies of the documents you filed.
In Florida, the law does not allow you to complete the service on your own. You are required to hire someone to serve divorce papers. This can be either a sheriff or a process server, and the fees for their services will vary depending on the county.
After the service is complete, your spouse will have 20 days to give the signed and notarized Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of Final Judgement back to you, as well as the Financial Affidavit if it is required in your case. You will then have to file these forms with the clerk.
5. Finalize Florida Marital Settlement Agreement
Getting a divorce without an attorney means that you have to draft your Settlement Agreement on your own. This is an extremely important form in your packet of Florida divorce documents, in which you will detail the agreement you and your spouse reached regarding your marriage dissolution. Some of the aspects that would be important to mention in a divorce settlement agreement include:
- Property division.
- Legal and physical custody.
- Child support.
- Health insurance for either party or the child.
- Retirement benefits.
- Life insurance policies.
You may include other provisions covering the agreements you and your spouse have reached. The more information you provide in each section, the less likely the disputes are to arise once you are granted a marriage dissolution. It is best that you reach all the agreements as soon as possible after you decide to end your marriage and, preferably, submit the Marital Settlement Agreement along with the initial paperwork.
6. Attend A Divorce Hearing
In Florida uncontested divorce, final hearing is one of the last steps to getting your marriage dissolved. Depending on the court requirements, a petitioner has to be present on the final divorce hearing to answer the judge’s questions, but the presence of the defendant might be optional.
Once the date is set, you are required to give the Notice of Hearing to your spouse. Arrive at a divorce hearing a little earlier with the rest of the paperwork you need to file at hand. Take a Final Disposition with you as you will need it later. A judge will review your Settlement Agreement and might ask you to prove your residence. Uncontested hearings are usually quite brief, and no issues will arise if you follow the proper court process and file all the necessary paperwork in due time.
7. File the Final Disposition with the Clerk
The very last step of the process is obtaining a Final Decree of Divorce. Who fills out the Final Decree of Divorce? As you and your spouse are in agreement – you do. Once a Decree is signed, you will officially have your divorce finalized. However, you also have to fill out a Final Disposition form and file it with the clerk after that.