Divorce follows a structured procedure that requires careful navigation. If you are on the path to divorce in Florida, familiarizing yourself with the steps involved will aid in understanding the journey ahead.
Every divorce is distinct and may not follow a linear path. However, these general steps provide a broad overview of what to expect.
Meet the residency prerequisite
Before initiating divorce proceedings in Florida, you or your spouse must maintain residency in the state for at least six months. This is a mandatory prerequisite that the courts consider before entertaining your petition.
File the petition
The individual seeking a divorce, known as the petitioner, submits a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” to the county’s circuit court where either party resides. This document outlines the reasons for seeking divorce and any specific requests or stipulations.
Serve the Documents
After filing, the petitioner serves the documents to the other spouse, known as the respondent. Typically, a process server or the sheriff’s department delivers these documents to ensure their receipt by the respondent.
Receive the respondent’s reply
The respondent then has a 20-day window to file a response. This response may either agree with the petition or contest specific claims. If the respondent fails to respond within the stipulated timeframe, the court might grant the divorce without considering the respondent’s input.
Decide property and child custody
You will need to settle decisions regarding the division of assets and debts and arrangements concerning child custody, visitation rights and child support. If both parties agree on these matters, the process moves more smoothly. If not, the court will decide based on available information.
Participate in mediation
In situations where both parties cannot agree, Florida may mandate mediation. This is a chance for both parties to sit down with a neutral third party and try to resolve outstanding issues.
Attend the final hearing
Upon resolving all matters, the court arranges a final hearing. During this hearing, a judge reviews all agreements and, if everything aligns, approves the divorce. The court might schedule further hearings or trials if certain matters remain unsettled. Once the judge signs off on everything, the court issues the final decree of dissolution, legally ending the marriage.
While divorce is usually not a pleasant journey, understanding the steps involved in Florida helps you be more prepared. Seek support when needed, With time and patience, you will navigate these stages and transition toward a new chapter in your life.