No Fault Divorce Law in the State of Florida

By Terry White

Florida has revised its divorce laws in recent years to make them among the most modern and progressive in the nation. If you are contemplating a divorce in Florida, it's worth your time to do your homework on Florida’s new laws. Talk to friends who have been through the process. You can also seek advice from professionals like financial planners, therapists and lawyers.

Florida has revised its divorce laws in recent years to make them among the most modern and progressive in the nation. If you are contemplating a divorce in Florida, it's worth your time to do your homework on Florida’s new laws. Talk to friends who have been through the process. You can also seek advice from professionals like financial planners, therapists and lawyers.

Grounds for Divorce

Florida is among many states that have abolished fault as a ground for divorce. Who did what to whom is now immaterial. To legally end the marriage, the spouses need only show it is irretrievably broken. The parties must prove that a legal marriage exists and that one of the spouses has been a Florida resident for six months immediately before the petition is filed.

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Regular or Simplified Divorce

Florida has two processes for obtaining a divorce. A regular divorce involves a traditional trial, subject to the rules of evidence, discovery and court procedures. A simplified divorce requires the parties to complete a fill-in-the-blank state form on which both spouses agree to the simplified divorce process and meet residency requirements. To use the simplified process, there can be no dependent children and the wife cannot be pregnant. The parties must agree on property division, debt payment and forgo alimony. Finally, both must acknowledge the marriage is irretrievably broken. If these requirements aren’t met, it is necessary to use the regular divorce process.

Dividing Marital Property

While Florida is a no-fault state, the court may take fault into account when considering alimony, child custody and property division. Florida divides marital assets equitably, unlike a community property state which divides them equally. This means the court can consider conduct, length of marriage, finances and other factors necessary to achieve fairness when dividing assets. Real estate can’t be divided, so it must be sold and the proceeds split, or one spouse must buy out the other.

Determining Child Custody

Florida law dictates the best interest of the child standard to determine custody. Establishing a child’s best interests requires the court to evaluate all factors affecting the welfare of the minor, including the moral, mental and physical fitness of each parent; their geographic locations; the ability of each parent to put the child’s needs first; how well each parent knows the child’s friends, teachers, doctors, school and social activities; whether domestic violence, child abuse or abandonment is an issue; and any other factors that are relevant to determining custody.

Alimony Requirements

Florida law requires two things before alimony, or spousal support, can be awarded: one party must need it and the other must have the means to pay. The court weighs a number of factors to determine the amount of alimony. These include age, standard of living, duration of the marriage, financial resources, future earning capacity and contributions to the marriage. The catch-all requirement that a judge must consider any factor necessary to ensure justice and equity gives the court great latitude in deciding alimony issues.

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Divorce Rules in Florida

References

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Documents for Divorce & Alimony

Divorces necessarily involve the exchange of information. The bulk of this exchange is generally handled outside the courtroom through written requests contained in standard court documents. Although state procedures can vary, courts have specific forms that the parties need to complete and submit to start a divorce, continue the divorce process and determine divorce-related matters, such as alimony. If you need assistance with the forms, an online legal document service can fill them out and submit them for you.

Does the Plaintiff Have to Show Up in a Divorce?

State laws regarding divorce often differ significantly. Further, rules on who must attend hearings vary based on the nature of the individual case. In some jurisdictions, the plaintiff, or party who is filing for divorce, does not need to attend the final hearing provided the couple agrees on the terms of the divorce. In other states, the plaintiff must attend but not his or her spouse. In some cases, both spouses must attend the final hearing.

Divorce Process in Florida & Giving Up Rights

When a husband and wife divorce in Florida, each spouse has rights and responsibilities set by state law. Although spouses can litigate contested issues in court, each spouse may choose to give up certain rights by agreement and without extensive litigation. Before signing a settlement agreement, each spouse should know their rights under Florida divorce law and understand the consequences of giving up those rights.

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