The divorce process is never easy, but getting started can be easier than you think. State law establishes two different processes for dissolutions: regular and simplified. The forms for each contain instructions on how to do this. The first step is to determine which process is best suited.
Simplified dissolution of marriage
It is a less expensive and less adversarial format that is suitable only for the least complicated and contentious divorces. To benefit from a simplified dissolution, the couples must agree on how they will divide marital assets and debts (liabilities).
Both parties must be willing to waive the right to a trial, the right to appeal and the right to support. There must also be no minor children from the marriage or current pregnancy. If these criteria are met, both parties must sign a simplified motion for dissolution and attend a final hearing together.
The couple’s agreement can be documented in a written marital settlement agreement, which is submitted to the court if the couple wishes. It is also possible to submit no written agreement and keep the agreement private.
After proving residency and paying the filing fee, the divorcing couple must complete a “Family Court Cover Sheet.” Finally, a “final judgment of simplified dissolution of the marriage” will either be completed and brought to justice by the divorcing parties, or completed in court by a judge.
Regular dissolution of marriage
Like the simplified dissolution, the regular dissolution begins with the filing of a marriage dissolution petition with the local circuit court where one of the spouses resides or where the two previously lived together.
There is a petition form for the dissolution of a marriage with children, another form for the childless spouses of the marriage, and a third for the dissolution without children or property. Unlike a simplified dissolution, the parties are not required to have reached an agreement. .
If the spouse served with the divorce suit files a response in agreement with the petition, a final hearing for an uncontested divorce may be scheduled. If they respond but disagree, the petitioner faces a contested divorce and must file a notice of trial. If the spouse served does not respond within 20 days, the divorce is uncontested and the petitioner may proceed with a default petition and schedule a final hearing at which he alone will appear.
A financial affidavit must be filed within 45 days of service of the petition. If there are children, parents must file a child support guidelines worksheet for the court to determine child support. A Uniform Affidavit of Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Child Custody must also be filed, even if the spouses agree to custody of the children.
Publicly available forms and resources
Florida offers good online resources for navigating the divorce process. This includes a state court self-help center with downloadable PDF and Word files for all Florida marriage dissolution forms. The state court system also provides a great getting started page, as well as a do-it-yourself guide for those without professional legal help. The full text of Florida’s Articles of Dissolution is posted here for those who want the fine print.
All court-issued forms and guides are free. Many organizations and businesses, including Florida law firms, offer additional information resources and legal documentation services.