Understanding Divorce in Florida

October 10, 2022

What is Divorce?

Divorce, also referred to as a Dissolution of Marriage, is the legal process that formally ends a marriage between two individuals. The divorce process is different in every state and unique to every couple.

There is no definite time frame for the divorce process. However, the process can be lengthy, depending on the couple's situation.

Grounds for Divorce in Florida

Florida is a "no-fault" divorce state, meaning the spouse petitioning the court for divorce does not need to cite a particular reason or assign blame for the end of the relationship.

Generally, the State of Florida will grant a divorce for two reasons:

  1. The marriage is irretrievably broken, or
  2. One of the spouses is mentally incapacitated.

When a marriage is "irretrievably broken," it is similar to saying the parties have irreconcilable differences. The parties have reached a point where they feel they have no choice but to end their marriage. However, the parties don't have to get into specifics as to their marital issues when filing for divorce.

Florida will also grant a divorce if one of the spouses has been mentally incapacitated for at least three years.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Florida

To file for divorce in Florida, you (or your spouse) must first meet the residency requirements. Either spouse must live at least six months in the state before filing the petition. If neither spouse meets the residency requirement, the Florida courts will not grant a divorce.

How to Initiate the Divorce Process in Florida

The process to initiate a divorce in Florida generally involves the following steps.

  • Fill Out A Petition

To begin the divorce process in Florida, the spouse that wishes to file for divorce (called the petitioner) must complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The petition will include information about the marriage, the children (if any), and any provisions you've agreed upon and details at issue. The petitioner will typically ask for the desired outcome, including child custody and how much alimony they seek.

  • File The Petition and Accompanying Forms

The petitioner will file their petition along with all required forms, like a financial affidavit, with the county court. The petitioner is also responsible for paying court filing fees.

  • Serve The Forms on The Respondent

Once the petitioner has filed the required documents with the court, they'll need to serve the other spouse, the "Respondent." There are a few ways this can be accomplished.

If your spouse agrees to service with no issues, they can complete and file a notarized "Answer and Waiver of Service." If completing a waiver is not an option, you can employ the Sherriff's office to serve the papers to them.

Serving your spouse gives them notice of your intention to seek a divorce. Once they are served, they must file a response to your petition. Their response allows them to agree to or dispute the terms and details stated in the divorce petition.

Once the petitioner responds, the divorce process begins.

Waiting Period for Florida Divorces

Many states have waiting periods before a judge can finalize a divorce. They range in length, but Florida's is only 20days. This is relatively short, considering that many divorces take much longer to resolve.

Issues Addressed in A Divorce

Specific issues addressed in a divorce depend on the spouses and their situation. In general, the following four topics are addressed in a divorce.

1.    Property Division

Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning the judge will equitably divide property between the spouses. Equitable Distribution is not always an even 50/50 division, however. The way that property is divided can depend on specific details, including (but not limited to):

  • The length of the marriage,
  • Each spouse's income,
  • Each spouse's contributions to the marriage, and/or
  • Each spouse's contribution to assets.

Property is either marital or separate. Separate property is property and assets a spouse acquired before the marriage. Marital property is property and assets the spouses acquired during the marriage, whether together or separately. Only marital property is subject to distribution. Along with property and assets, debt is divided in a divorce.

2.    Spousal Support

Spousal support, or alimony, is a monthly payment made by one spouse to another during or after the divorce is finalized.

Men and women can request alimony, but it is not automatically granted. Whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support will often depend on certain factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • The standard of living the spouses is accustomed to,
  • Each spouse's finances,
  • Each spouse's earning capacity,
  • Each spouse's individual property and assets,
  • Whether the couple has children.

Judges often have broad discretion when it comes to spousal support and details regarding payments.

In Florida, there are five types of alimony:

  1. Temporary Alimony,
  2. Permanent Alimony,
  3. Bridge-the-gap,
  4. Rehabilitative, and
  5. Durational Alimony.

Temporary Alimony is granted to a spouse during the divorce proceedings. Unless it is made permanent, durational, bridge-the-gap, or rehabilitative the support ends once the divorce is finalized.

Permanent Alimony begins after the divorce. The court will decide how long one spouse pays the other, but support often ends if the receiving spouse remarries, or the paying spouse passes away.

Bridge-the-gap Alimony is financial support one spouse provides the other while transitioning from married to single life. For example, the receiving spouse may need monetary help while looking for full-time work after being a stay-at-home wife. This type of alimony does not exceed two years.

Rehabilitative Alimony is awarded when spouses can become fully self-sufficient but need some time to get there. For the court to grant rehabilitative alimony, they'll need a defined plan to review.

Durational Alimony is a type of spousal support that provides financial assistance to the disadvantaged spouse fora predefined period of time that does not exceed the length of the marriage, typically awarded following a short (or moderate) term marriage.


“Timesharing” is a statutory term that most laypeople have come to know as “child custody.”

We’ll address Timesharing in this blog by its popular common name – child custody. If the spouses have children, Timesharing will be addressed during the divorce. While joint custody is most common, the court can decide whether one parent is entitled to sole custody.

Florida Statute § 61.13 dictates that child custody decisions always revolve around the best interests of the child. [i] The judge will rely on certain factors when determining an appropriate child custody arrangement, including:

  • The relationship the child has with each parent,
  • Which parent has been the primary caregiver thus far,
  • Each parent's ability to provide for the child,
  • Each parent's mental and physical health,
  • Whether there is evidence of domestic abuse,
  • The child's particular needs, and
  • The child's preferences (if they are of a certain age).

Furthermore, Fla. Stat. § 61.13 also mandates that if parents can reach a settlement, they will submit a parenting plan to the court for approval, which must include [ii]:

  • Describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child,
  • Include the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent,
  • Designate who will be responsible for any and all forms of healthcare,
  • School-related matters, and
  • Describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

Parents must respect a child custody order or approved parenting plan. Deviating from either can have repercussions.

Child Support

Child support involves one parent making payments to the other to support their child financially. These payments can help with everything for the child, from clothing to educational costs.

Child support decisions are based on the child's needs and the incomes of both parents. According to Fla. Stat. § 61.13(1)(a), the court may at any time order either (or both parents) who owe a duty of support to a child, to pay support to the other parent (however, child support is still available when parents share custody of their child). [iii]

Moreover, pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 61.13(1)(a)(1), all child support orders must provide for child support to terminate on the child’sirthday, unlss:

  • The parents agree to extend child support beyond the age of 18, or
  • The child has a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to the child reaching 18 or if the child is dependent in fact, is between the ages of 18 and 19, and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19. [v]

Frequently Asked Questions (Florida Divorce)

1.    Am I Legally Required to Have a Divorce Attorney Represent Me?

No, there is no legal requirement to have an attorney represent you. You can handle your divorce, pro se, meaning you're representing yourself.

However, divorce can be particularly stressful, and sometimes divorces become contentious. Having the help of a qualified Florida divorce attorney can benefit your case immensely. A lawyer can effectively help resolve your issues, handle your case timely, and get you to a favorable resolution.

Divorce attorneys are highly skilled and well-versed in the laws of your case. While you can always handle your case on your own, most people find that having a divorce attorney's guidance provides peace of mind and yields better results.

2.    Is Legal Separation Available in Florida?

A legal separation is an arrangement in which a married couple lives apart while remaining legally married. It is often used as an alternative to divorce when couples do not want to make the leap to legally end their marriage. Florida, however, does not recognize legal separation.

While married couples are allowed to live apart, they cannot be considered legally separated.

3.    Do Divorces Always End Up in Court?

Many divorce cases are settled outside of court and not litigated. Divorces can either be contested or uncontested. A divorce is contested when the spouses disagree on one or various key issues. Contested divorces do go to court, and the outcome is litigated.

If your divorce is uncontested, this means you and your spouse are generally in agreement. You both can settle outside of court and submit your agreement to the court for approval by a judge. Only one spouse will need to go to court to prove the residency requirement and get the divorce finalized.

4.    What Is Mediation, And Is It Required in Florida Divorces?

If you're considering divorce, you may have heard about mediation. Mediation is a common form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation involves both spouses, their attorneys if they're represented, and a mediator. The mediator is a neutral third party who listens to both spouses and works with them to help facilitate resolutions to their issues. Many couples find mediation a beneficial alternative to litigation, as it fosters peaceful communication and togetherness.

Mediation is not required in Florida, but many judges will make a recommendation for mediation before hearing your case. In the best cases, mediation successfully eliminates the need for litigation. Even if it's not successful, it may help couples begin to work toward resolving their issues.

5.    Are Same-Sex Divorces Handled the Same Way?

Yes. Same-sex divorces are handled in the same manner as traditional divorces in Florida.

6.    My Divorce Involves Domestic Violence. What Can Be Done to Protect Me?

If you've faced domestic violence or are afraid your spouse may try to retaliate for filing for divorce, you have options. When filing for divorce, you can request a protective order. Protective orders typically protect a spouse by ordering the abusive spouse to stay away from them at all times. If the abusive spouse violates the order, they face consequences.

After an initial review, the court will grant a temporary protective order if necessary. The court will then schedule a hearing to investigate further. After hearing from both sides, the court may decide to make the protective order permanent, depending on the situation.

7.    My Spouse Didn't File a Response After Being Served. Can I Still Get Divorced?

After a spouse receives service of the divorce petition and other papers, they typically have 20 days to file a response with the court. The petitioning spouse can request a default divorce if the respondent does not file their response promptly.

When there is a default judgment, the divorce proceeds without the respondent. Typically, the petitioner will get the relief they seek in their petition, and the respondent will no longer be able to contest any issues raised by the petitioner.

8.    My Spouse Is Evading Service. Does That Affect My Divorce?

Once you file for divorce, you must serve your spouse with the divorce papers. In some cases, the respondent spouse may evade service, meaning they intentionally try to avoid being served. If your spouse is evading service, it can delay the divorce process.

Under Florida law, you must exercise "due diligence" to find your spouse if your spouse is missing rather than evading service. Due diligence means doing whatever is necessary to locate your spouse, including checking bank accounts and credit card activity.

If, even with due diligence, you're still unable to find your spouse, the court will likely issue a citation by publication. This allows you to publish a notice in the newspaper to provide notice to your missing spouse.

A default divorce may be available if your missing spouse does not turn up. Discuss your case with a qualified Florida divorce attorney for the best legal action plan for issues with spouses evading service or missing spouses.

9.    Can A Divorce Decree Later Be Modified?

When a judge issues your divorce decree, it must be followed. Nonetheless, in certain situations, an ex-spouse might aim to modify the divorce decree.

To modify a divorce decree, the ex-spouse wishing to modify must show the court there has been a substantial change in circumstance. So, for example, if a spouse paying alimony loses their job or suffers a change in their financial situation, they can petition the court to modify their spousal support.

While modifications are possible, they can be difficult to achieve. If you're seeking a modification, ask a divorce attorney for guidance.

10. How Can a Florida Divorce Attorney Help Me?

A divorce lawyer can help you in many ways. They will handle every aspect of your case, including:

  • Answering your questions and concerns,
  • Drafting and filing your divorce petition,
  • Serving your spouse,
  • Determining spousal and child support,
  • Helping create a custody plan, and
  • Representing you in mediation and court.

Divorce can be complicated, especially when issues are contested. Your divorce lawyer will know how to handle your case competently and get everything done timely, helping you achieve the best possible resolution. Additionally, should you need representation in the future to enforce or modify certain orders, a divorce attorney can assist.

Discuss Your Case with A South Florida Divorce Lawyer

The Joseph Firm, P.A., has extensive experience helping clients pursuing divorce in South Florida, including Miami Dade County. Our law firm fully understands the challenges of a divorce, and we're always ready to provide the highest-quality legal representation. Whether your divorce settles outside the courtroom or goes to trial, our attorneys go the extra mile for every client.

We handle every case with a unique approach, as we know every marriage is different. You can expect care and compassion while we fight aggressively for your rights and a favorable outcome. Our firm offers evaluations. Speak to a Miami divorce attorney at The Joseph Firm, P.A. today by calling (305) 501-0992 or contacting us online.

A Miami divorce lawyer at The Joseph Firm, P.A.  can help handle your case from beginning to end, helping you pursue the best possible outcome. The experienced divorce lawyers at Joseph Firm, P.A. are ready to hear your story. We provide smart, aggressive family law representation to clients. To learn more, call (305) 501-0992 or contact us online.


[i] See Florida Statute Section 61.13 (2022)

ii] Id

[iii] Id. at Fla. Stat. § 61.13(1)(a).

[iv] Id. at § 61.13(1)(a)(1).

[v] See Fla. Stat. § 743.07(2)(stating“[t]his section shall not prohibit any court of competent jurisdiction from requiring support for a dependent person beyond the age of 18 years when such dependency is because of a mental or physical incapacity which began prior to such person reaching majority or if the person is dependent in fact, is between the ages of18 and 19, and is still in high school, performing in good faith with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19”).