If you are filing for divorce in Jacksonville, Florida, everything you need is available from the Office of Family Court Services (FCS), including forms and help with filling them out. FCS also offers free seminars in self-representation, covering various aspects of self-representation throughout the divorce process. Forms are also available directly from the Family Law Clerk of the Duval County Circuit Court (located on second floor), online at the Florida Supreme Court website, or from an online legal document provider. Instructions are included with the forms provided by the clerk, written for the lay person who has never before navigated the Florida family court system.
Florida law requires you live in the state of Florida for six consecutive months before filing for divorce in the state. Once a person has lived in Florida for six months or more, he or she may file for divorce in any county within the state, including Duval County, Florida, which includes the City of Jacksonville. Forms are generally grouped in categories, so before going to the Duval County Clerk, Duval County Office of Family Court Services or online to obtain the proper forms, identify what type of divorce yours is likely to be. Form categories include divorce with no minor children or property, divorce with minor children and no property, divorce with property and no minor children, or divorce with minor children and property.
Florida Grounds for Divorce
Only two grounds for divorce exist under Florida law. The first is the marriage is "irretrievably broken," meaning you feel there are irreconcilable differences between you and your spouse that cannot be resolved. The other ground is mental incompetence. Before you can use this ground, a judge must have declared your spouse incompetent at least three years before the divorce.
Filing for Divorce
Jacksonville is located within Florida's Fourth Judicial Circuit; thus, all family law matters are handled by the Circuit Court. The divorce process begins by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Family Law Circuit Court Clerk. The Petition must include the following: your name and address and that of your spouse; state you want a divorce and the divorce ground; name, age, gender and address of each minor child of the marriage; and your desired custody and visitation arrangements detailed in an attached parenting plan. You must also provide the address and legal description of each piece of real property you own with your spouse and a request for the property be given to you, if you want it. While not required, you should also address payment of attorney fees by asking the court to either have your spouse pay for all of them, or divide them equally between you two. Lastly, your signature is required.
When filing for divorce in Jacksonville, Florida, you must file additional forms with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The type of divorce you are seeking determines which forms are required. Some of these forms are: the Summons, Cover Sheet, Notice of Related Cases (if any), Nonmilitary Affidavit (if applicable), Notice of Social Security Number, Family Law Financial Affidavit and, if any minor children of the marriage, a Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Act form and Parenting Plan. Step by step instructions are attached to each form. However, if you still have questions, the Office of Family Court Services provides help with these forms.
Once filed, the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and other forms filed with it must be served on your spouse. The services of a professional process server are usually contracted for this task. The process server delivers the papers to your spouse, obtains his signature and files a return of service with the court as evidence your spouse was served. After service, your spouse has 20 days in which to file an Answer to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, or his own Cross Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.105 offers a simplified divorce process for spouses who agree on everything about their divorce and willingly file the petition for dissolution jointly. The following requirements must be met to qualify for a simplified divorce: at least one spouse has been a Florida resident for six consecutive months prior to filing the petition; there are no minor children of the marriage, either biological or adopted, and the wife is not pregnant; both parties agree that the marriage is "irretrievably broken;" you both agree to the division of all property; both parties agree that neither spouse receives any monetary support after the divorce; and you both agree to use the simplified divorce procedure. Lastly, both spouses must attend the final divorce hearing.