Most Common Family Law Questions Answered

  1. What does it mean that Florida is a “no fault” divorce state?

Florida law states that if one of the spouses in a valid marriage feels that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the marriage, if the Court has jurisdiction over the marriage and the spouses, may be dissolved by Court Order.  The spouse need not charge the other spouse with wrongdoing such as “mental cruelty” or adultery, to obtain a divorce.  However, a spouse’s wrongful acts may help determine the outcome of distribution of assets and liabilities between the spouses and the calculation for alimony, if that is an issue.

 

  1. If I was married outside Florida or if we lived outside Florida for the term of our marriage, can I get a Florida divorce?

If you wish to file for divorce in Florida, you must petition the Court and pay the Clerk’s fee for doing so. You must have lived in Florida for six months prior to filing for the divorce and prove that by presenting appropriate Florida identification or by a sworn affidavit of a person that has actual knowledge that you have lived here for the 6 months. Beyond that, for you to have the Court address the disposition of real property, requests for support,  topics related to any of your minor children or issues which resolve the business of the marriage you wish to terminate, the Court must have jurisdiction over the parties (you and your spouse), and jurisdiction over the children.

 

  1.  What is a “simplified divorce” in Florida?

Florida law provides the Family Forms for your divorce if you have qualified for the 6 month rule, if you and your spouse agree on all the issues addressed in those forms, if you own no real property together in Florida, and as a couple you have no minor children. You access those forms in a number of web pages including the Pasco or Pinellas Clerk of the Court.

If your situation does not allow you a “simplified divorce,” it is possible to for you and your spouse to enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement with a parenting plan and the other documents required under Florida law and appear before the Court to obtain the Court order of dissolution without litigation. However, the agreement must comply with Florida law regulating the issues in your marriage. Mediation is not only encouraged but mandated prior to litigation in your case; a signed settlement agreement may render mediation unnecessary.

 

  1. Do I need an attorney for my divorce?

The “simplified divorce” procedure is intend to be used without recourse to a lawyer. There is no law in Florida requiring you to have a lawyer for a divorce. However, it is the smart person who at the very least consults with a lawyer; it is the wise person who hires a lawyer to lead you through the process.  Pitfalls, which could impact your financial future, your relationship with your children, your business and profession, exist in this complex process;  trying to fix unintended consequences is often more expensive and there may not be a possible fix!