Understanding Divorce Laws in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide
Explore Florida's divorce laws comprehensively. From grounds for divorce to child custody, alimony, and more, this guide will take you through Florida’s divorce laws and help you make informed decisions during this life-changing process.
What are the grounds for divorce in Florida?
In Florida, there are two grounds for divorce:
The marriage is irretrievably broken, commonly referred to as irreconcilable differences
The mental incapacity of one of the parties
It is important to note, in Florida, the law does not allow spouses to assign fault to one another to gain an advantage in property division or alimony during divorce proceedings.
However, one exception to this law is in the case of domestic violence or abuse. Here.. if there is evidence, a judge can issue orders to protect abuse victims before the divorce's finalization.
What is the cost of divorce in Florida?
The cost of divorce in Florida can show significant variation based on individual circumstances. According to USA Today, the average cost of a divorce for couples is as follows.
Divorce without children: $13,500
Divorce involving children: $20,300
However, the actual expenses can vary dramatically, from a few hundred dollars to well over $100,000 in legal fees. This variability is influenced by numerous factors, including:
Disagreements on key matters
Overall financial situation
Presence of children
Level of cooperation
Legal approach taken by attorneys
Willingness to reach agreements
The filing paperwork costs a little over $400 to initiate a divorce in Florida, though the exact sum varies depending on the county. Residents seeking specific figures can visit their local county clerk's website. This fee primarily covers the filing process and also includes expenses related to serving a summons to the other party.
How to file for divorce in Florida?
When filing for divorce in Florida there are specific forms and rules you must follow:
Meet residency requirement: one spouse needs to be a Florida resident for at least six months before initiating the divorce process.
File necessary forms: to initiate the divorce process you must begin by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage with the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse resides. In addition to this form, you may also need to file other forms depending on your specific circumstances, such as a financial affidavit, a notice of social security number, and a parenting plan if there are minor children involved.
20-day waiting period: once you start a marriage dissolution, you must wait for 20 days before a Circuit Court Judge hears the case.
Wait for final judgement: following the waiting period, the process culminates when the Judge signs the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
It’s also important to note, Florida does not have a mandatory separation periods for divorce. Couples can initiate divorce proceedings when the decision to dissolve the marriage is reached.
How do you split up assets in Florida?
In Florida, when a couple files for divorce, their marital assets and liabilities are subject to “equitable distribution,” meaning that the court will divide them fairly and equally. This usually results in a 50/50 split unless there are factors that would make an equal division inequitable.
This division of assets includes the following steps:
Determine property classification: an asset or debt is categorized as marital or separate property.
Equitable distribution: marital property and debts fall under equitable distribution by the court, meaning they are subject to division.
Exclude separate property: property owned solely by one spouse remains unaffected and is not divided as part of the divorce process.
It is worth noting that the court in Florida will consider several factors to ensure an equitable distribution of assets, including:
Each spouse’s income and earning potential
The length of the couple’s marriage
The number of minor children at home
Whether one spouse made career sacrifices for the other spouse’s education or job
Each spouse’s debts and assets
Each spouse’s overall physical and mental health
Any other relevant factor
How does alimony work in Florida?
Florida recognizes various alimony types, each differing in duration, form, and quantum. The assessment of these factors happens on a case-by-case basis and often inlcudes factors such as the duration of the marriage, financial resources, contributions, and potential sacrifices.
What happens to children during a divorce in Florida?
Children are often caught in the middle during a divorce.
Here is a breakdown of how such matters are resolved during a divorce in Florida:
1. Child Custody
In Florida, the term used for child custody is parental responsibility.
Parents involved in a child custody case must create a parenting plan that includes a time-sharing schedule, which the court must approve.
The underlying principle of Florida’s approach to child custody is that both parents should share the responsibility of raising their child and that the child should have time with both parents. An exception to this is if it is determined that shared parental responsibility would harm the child.
Florida law does not show preference towards either parent when making decisions about child custody. Instead, the custody arrangement is determined based on each case's specific details and circumstances.
2. Child Support
In Florida, child support is a legal obligation for parents to provide financial support for their child’s care, maintenance, education, and training. This obligation applies to all parents, whether they are married, divorced, or single.
The amount of child support is determined by Florida’s Child Support Guidelines, which specify the amount of support to be paid in each case. The payment amount is primarily based on the parents’ income, custody arrangements, and the number of children involved.
How to protect your finances when going through a divorce in Florida
Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances. You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.
Here are some way you can protect your money when going through a divorce:
Organize your finances: before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.
Consider mediation: mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.
Think about Social Security: if you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.
Seek professional help: divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future. A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.
Charlie Barton is a writer at Unbiased. He has been writing about personal finance and investing since 2017, with extensive knowledge of platforms and products. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics.