Step-by-Step Florida Divorces

by Bernadette A. Safrath

Many marriages end in divorce. Florida's divorce process, also called dissolution of marriage, is set forth in state statutes to ensure that both spouses get what they are entitled to. During the divorce proceeding, the court will divide marital property and may award alimony if the requesting spouse can demonstrate financial need.

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Grounds for Divorce

Fault used to be a required element in order for spouses to divorce. However, Florida has eliminated fault grounds. Spouses are now entitled to file for dissolution based on the no-fault ground of "irretrievable breakdown," also called "irreconcilable differences." The only other ground for divorce still recognized in Florida is mental incapacity, which can be used if a spouse has been diagnosed as mentally ill and the diagnosis is ongoing for at least three years.

Divorce Papers

Spouses can file for dissolution if they meet Florida's residency requirement. This means at least one of the spouses must have resided in the state for at least the previous six months. Either spouse can file the divorce papers. The filing spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Florida circuit court located in either spouse's county of residence. The papers must then be served on the other spouse, who has 20 days to submit an answer.

Division of Property

Both spouses are required to submit financial affidavits to the court within 45 days after the petition is filed. The court uses these financial documents to determine how the spouses' marital property is to be divided. Each spouse will retain any separate property -- anything acquired prior to the marriage. All other marital assets are subject to division.

Equitable Distribution

Florida is an "equitable distribution" state, which means the division of property does not have to be equal, but what the court considers fair to both spouses. The court makes the final property settlement based on several factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse's income and each spouse's role in the marriage -- for example, homemaker versus wage earner. The court will also consider the value of each spouse's separate property, which is anything acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage and entitled to remain in the sole ownership of the acquiring spouse. The court will consider requests by either spouse to retain a particular piece of property and any evidence of intentional wasteful spending or attempting to hide any assets before or during the dissolution proceeding.


A Florida court may award alimony if either spouse needs additional financial support. Alimony is awarded to a spouse who does not have enough assets to be self-supporting. Courts examine whether the requesting spouse will be able to maintain employment in order to be self-sufficient in the future and whether the owing spouse is able to pay while still maintaining his own financial obligations. Once ordered, alimony must be paid in full unless either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries or lives in a marriage-like relationship.