How to Get a Divorce

divorce decreeIf you have lived in the state of Florida for at least six months, you are within your rights to file for divorce even if your spouse doesn’t agree. If you believe that it’s not possible to repair the marriage or your spouse has been determined to be legally incompetent, you will file for Dissolution of Marriage (the legal term for Divorce) at the Circuit Court within the county in which you live.

The Florida Supreme Court made it possible for residents to represent themselves when getting a divorce. Usually, the county court’s websites contain the necessary documents for this action and instructions for properly completing these papers.  However, you may wish to consider hiring a divorce attorney if there are complex issues or child custody to consider.

What If I Cannot Afford a Divorce Attorney?

 If you believe that you do need a divorce attorney but you cannot afford one, you will not be appointed one by the court. In some cases, the court can order your spouse to pay your attorney’s fees and court costs in the event that you can demonstrate that your financial situation warrants it.   But for the most part, each party pays for their own attorney.

How Is My Spouse Served?

You must first file a Dissolution of Marriage with the Court.  Filing Fees vary by County.  Your spouse receives notice that you have filed for divorce from the Clerk of the Court. After you file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the Clerk will send your spouse a summons. The Sheriff or a process server will present your spouse with a copy of the Petition and all documents that have been filed in this matter along with the summons. Generally, this service costs around $40. Afterward, the sheriff or process server will file a Return of Service that will contain the date that the papers are served.

If your spouse decides to sign an Acceptance of Service with the Clerk, he or she will not need to be served. If your spouse lives in Florida, he or she will have 20 days to file a response after receiving the Petition.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

After having the Dissolution of Marriage served upon your spouse, they will have 20 days to file an Answer to your Dissolution of Marriage.  If no Answer is submitted within those 20 days, , then the Court will enter the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. It can take four to six weeks to finalize a divorce if it is uncontested. When it is more difficult for both parties to come to an agreement or the divorce is contested, it may take months to complete the process.

If a Divorce is contested, not only does it take longer, but it also cost more.  Check out our blog post “10 Tips on How to Save Money on Attorneys Fees

A contested divorce may require several months if there are assets that must be appraised. The court may ask that experts offer their opinions concerning child custody. Both of these requirements can increase the time needed to get a divorce to six months or even a year.