What We Cover In This Article
Divorce Laws | Residency Requirements | Grounds for Divorce | Divorce Attorney | Filing for Divorce | Online Divorce | How Long? | Divorce Costs | Custody | Child Support | Alimony | Division of Asset | Common-Law Marriage | Alternatives
Getting a divorce in Florida can be very complicated.
Between the stress of getting a divorce and the actual process of legally ending your marriage is enough to push anyone to their limits.
It can be a stressful time regardless of if you're the one who asked for the divorce or not.
If you're ready to divorce your spouse but aren't sure how to go about it, this guide is here to help.
Knowing what to expect and what you need to do can help ease your stress levels and make divorce a much easier process to go through.
Keep reading to learn all about getting a divorce in the Sunshine State.
Types of Divorce Laws in Florida
Florida has established divorce laws in place to ensure that divorcing couples can legally end their marriage.
The divorce laws need to be applied to different situations, such as when both parties want a divorce, when spouses can't agree, when children are involved and more.
There are three types of divorce laws in Florida to consider.
A contested divorce is unfortunately often the most common type of divorce in Florida.
It's a contested divorce when spouses don't agree on any of the terms or just some parts of their divorce.
Even if spouses agree on nine out of ten issues, it will still be contested since they cannot agree on the final issue.
One of the primary reasons people have a contested divorce is when children are involved.
Many parents can't agree on the custody situation of children and child support and therefore need to involve attorneys and the courts to settle the dispute.
When going through a contested divorce, attorneys are involved, and the divorce often has to go to trial for the judge to determine the final verdict on issues.
These take much longer than uncontested and simplified divorces and are much more expensive due to attorney fees.
Pros & Cons
An uncontested divorce means that both spouses have resolved all the terms surrounding their divorce and are ready for the judge to sign off on the agreed terms.
This includes the division of assets and/or debts, child support and custody if applicable, and alimony.
An uncontested divorce is one of the easiest divorces since both parties are in agreement.
Uncontested divorces tend to be cheaper and faster than a contested divorce since you and your spouse will spend less time arguing over assets and custody agreements.
Even if you and your spouse are in 100% agreement, you must meet the uncontested divorce requirements before filing.
FURTHER READING: How To Get a Cheap and Quick Divorce
Uncontested Divorce Requirements in Florida
The uncontested divorce requirements in Florida include meeting the residency requirements and filling out all necessary paperwork without any disputes.
The paperwork must outline every aspect of the divorce, stating what goes to who and any custody, child support, and alimony agreements that you and your spouse will put in place after the divorce is finalized.
Pros & Cons
If you qualify for an uncontested divorce, using an online divorce service is a great way to save a lot of money. Keep in mind in Florida, divorce can cost about $13,500 and with children about $20,300 in fees if you file for divorce with an attorney.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
A simplified divorce in Florida is essentially what the name states.
It's the simplest way to divorce your partner.
In a simplified divorce, both spouses are the petitioners and asking the courts for a divorce.
Simplified Divorce Requirements in Florida
Not everyone will qualify for a simplified divorce in Florida, here are the requirements.
- There must be no children under 18 in the household
- The wife must not be pregnant
- Both spouses have to be in agreement about the divorce and all the divorce terms
- Neither party is requesting alimony from the other
- Both spouses must agree on how they will divide all their assets and pay any debts
- Both spouses are willing to go into the court to sign the petition
You both don't have to sign the petition at the same time unless you want to.
With a simplified divorce, both parties need to be on board and present at the final divorce hearing.
This type of divorce can be handled without attorneys and usually takes about 30 days from the initial filing.
Pros and Cons
Residency Requirements in Florida
Before you head down to the county courthouse to file your divorce paperwork, you need to ensure that you or your spouse meet the residency requirements in Florida.
Only one of the spouses needs to be a resident of Florida for at least six months.
If you, the petitioner, haven't been a resident for six months but your partner has, you can still begin to file for divorce.
They must have residency for six months before the date you file the papers.
You can prove residency with the following methods:
- Valid Florida ID card
- Valid Florida driver's license
- Voters registration card
- Third-party testimony
Other ways to prove they plan on making Florida their home include purchasing a home, permanent employment, or having a Florida address.
Grounds for Divorce in Florida
If you and your partner are seeking a divorce in the Sunshine State, the good news is that Florida is a no-fault divorce state.
A no-fault divorce state means that neither spouse has to commit any “faults” before filing for divorce.
Keep in mind, even though Florida is a no-fault divorce state, a judge may consider any faults when determining alimony amounts.
If the person requesting alimony payments is at fault and created a toxic marriage, the judge can lower the amount or change it however they see fit.
The grounds for divorce in Florida are simple.
Both spouses need to agree that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
Regardless if there are more specific reasons for the divorce, this is all that is required.
There is another ground for divorce in Florida, but it's not as common as the previous.
In Florida, if one of the spouses has been declared as “mentally incapacitated” for three years before filing, this is grounds for divorce.
Using a Florida Divorce Attorney
While it's possible to go through a divorce without hiring a divorce attorney, sometimes bringing one on board is the best way to ensure everything works out in your best interest.
If you're planning on using a divorce attorney in Florida, you'll want to make sure you choose the best one for you.
If you are filing for a simplified or uncontested divorce, hiring a divorce attorney isn't necessary.
Since both of these types of divorces require both spouses to be in agreement about everything within the divorce, you don't need an attorney to work out any issues.
The one difference between simplified and uncontested divorces is that you may want to consider using an attorney for an uncontested divorce if there are children under 18 in the household.
An attorney can help ensure that both spouses agree to what will make sure the children’s needs are meet.
If you and your spouse are going through a contested divorce, you will want an excellent Florida divorce attorney.
Since you both aren't in agreement on the terms of the divorce or even one single issue that is becoming a pain point, an attorney can work with your spouse's attorney to negotiate any deals in your divorce terms.
Having an excellent divorce attorney is crucial when children are involved.
A divorce that involves child support and custody tends to be the messiest.
Attorneys can help find a solution that's in the best interest of the child or children.
While hiring a divorce attorney is an extra expense, it's in your best interest to bring one on board with a contested divorce.
Both attorneys can work through the issues and find a settlement that works for both parties.
Remember, you might not always get everything you want, but a good Florida divorce attorney will be able to get you what you deserve.
What Makes a Good Divorce Attorney?
Hiring a divorce lawyer isn't something you should take lightly.
If you're looking to hire an attorney, you'll want to make sure that they're great at what they do and that it's a good fit for your specific divorce situation.
Here are several factors that make a great divorce attorney:
- If they can build trust with you
- If they can provide you the support you need, even with other ongoing cases
- How much experience do they have in family and divorce law?
- Their success rate within family and divorce law
- If they have the time to handle your case with the care it deserves
- If they can work well under pressure
- How well they communicate with you throughout the process
- If they can set realistic expectations with you
When searching for a divorce attorney, you'll want to keep these qualities in mind.
If a divorce attorney cannot give you realistic expectations based on your situation, you're more likely to be disappointed with the end result.
Lawyers are used to working under pressure, but you'll want to judge for yourself how comfortable you feel with how well they work.
That includes both your divorce case and working with your personality type.
If they can't give you the support you need, you'll be disappointed, and the list goes on.
How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney
Knowing what you're looking for in a divorce attorney and actually finding one are two different situations.
If you've decided that you need to hire a divorce attorney, there are a few ways you can find a good one in Florida.
The most common way people find a good divorce attorney in Florida is by searching on Google.
When doing a Google search, you'll want to keep in mind to include a family law or divorce attorney in your search query.
For example, try using the phrase “best divorce attorney near me” or “best divorce attorney in Orlando Florida”.
Obviously you will want to change the city to yours but you get the point.
Doing this helps to weed out lawyers without the experience you're looking for.
There are many different types of law that attorneys practice and you want to make sure you hire someone who has experience with divorces.
The good news is that most law firms or lawyers have this information on Google, so it takes a lot of guesswork away.
Another excellent way to find a good attorney in Florida is to ask people you know and trust.
If you have friends or family in Florida who have gone through a divorce before, asking them for a referral is a great way to find an attorney.
Most people won't refer to an attorney they don't like or don't trust.
Plus, if they've gone through a divorce with a specific attorney, they can give you more information about how well they worked without you having to dig deeper into the website and online reviews and profiles.
Regardless of how you find a divorce attorney in Florida, you'll want to interview them before officially hiring them to work your divorce.
Interview Questions for Divorce Attorneys
Interviewing divorce attorneys is the best way to make sure you like who you've hired and believe that they'll work hard to find a settlement that works for you.
It may seem odd to interview an attorney, but it's way more common than you think.
If you're unsure about the attorney after your consultation, you can take some time to think about it before putting down a retainer.
Once you've gotten ahold of a lawyer and have set up a meeting, here are some essential questions you may want to ask them when you meet:
- What experience do you have working on divorces?
- Approximately how many divorce or family law cases have you worked on?
- Do you have experience with my specific type of divorce? (For example, if your spouse is a narcissist)
- How accessible are you for any questions I may have?
- If you're not available, do you have others in your firm that can assist me?
- If you have others in the firm who will be involved in my case, can I meet them?
- Based on what I've told you, what strategy would you pursue for my case?
- How much do you estimate my case will cost? (Don't' be surprised if they cannot give you an accurate number right away)
- Do I need to communicate with my spouse, or do our attorneys do that?
- What do you think the outcome of my case will be?
As you meet with attorneys, more questions are likely to come up.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. They're used to this, and they also want to make sure they can do the best job possible for you.
What is an Initial Consultation Fee?
Most reputable and professional attorneys in Florida are offering free consultations for divorce cases in the current market.
Today’s divorce attorneys understand that you have a variety of options for representation (especially if you’re only securing an attorney as a safety net for an uncontested case), and they know that the consultation is your chance to interview them.
If an attorney on your shortlist charges for a consultation session, consider striking them from the list.
However, if you’ve received good feedback from past clients about someone, and they charge for a consultation, consider taking the appointment if it won’t break the bank.
Good representation is worth every penny.
Is the Meeting Confidential?
Yes. You've probably heard of attorney-client privilege.
Attorney-client privilege ensures that whatever you say when meeting with your attorney is told in confidence, and they cannot share that information without your consent.
When you book a consultation with an attorney, you're going in under the assumption that you may hire this person.
The initial consultation should take place either in a closed-door, in-person meeting or via a password-protected online meeting platform over a secure internet connection.
Any attorney worth their salt will ensure that your privacy is protected, and asking about privacy and confidentiality during the interview process is an excellent way to gauge your potential attorney’s commitment to privacy.
You can ask about their firm’s client confidentiality policy, if phone calls with clients are ever recorded, or if they have a secure email server.
If you’re concerned about your confidentiality and can't risk being seen walking into the attorney's office, ask them to meet you where you are.
Attorney-client privilege extends to this consultation and everything surrounding your case.
Even if you don't hire them, they cannot share this information.
Pros of Using an Attorney
Hiring an attorney isn't always comfortable or come naturally for everyone, but hiring one can benefit you throughout the divorce process.
One of the biggest pros of hiring a divorce attorney is that it can alleviate a lot of stress when it comes to speaking with your spouse.
When you and your spouse can't see eye to eye on any part of your divorce, having attorneys who can negotiate different terms will prevent you from arguing as much since they'll handle it before presenting the option to you both.
Divorce attorneys are ideal for protecting the interest of your children if that's applicable in your divorce.
Child support and custody issues are the leading cause of contention in divorces, so having attorneys who can hash out the details may be better than you and your spouse trying.
Another pro for hiring an attorney is if there's any alimony being requested.
If you're the one requesting alimony or maintenance and your spouse isn't in agreement, having attorneys handle the settlement can allow an agreement to be reached.
For those going through a divorce where the spouse is abusive emotionally, physically or both, having an attorney will protect you throughout the process.
Abusers are manipulative, and your attorney can help prevent you from signing something you're not comfortable with.
They can also help you file restraining orders and protection orders if it's necessary for your safety throughout the divorce and after.
Cons of Using an Attorney
There aren't a lot of cons to hiring a divorce attorney.
The biggest drawback of hiring a divorce lawyer is the cost.
Attorneys are not cheap.
If you and your spouse can come to an agreement without having to spend the extra money, you may want to do that.
There are other options, such as online divorce companies, that can also assist you in filling out the legal forms necessary to get an uncontested divorce but at a much lower cost (usually between approximately $200 and $400).
Filing for Divorce in Florida
Filing for divorce in Florida is a little bit more complicated than just showing up at the courthouse and requesting a divorce.
Several steps in the process need to be completed before you can officially file for divorce.
Decide What Type of Divorce You Need
Before you can begin filing any paperwork, you need to decide what type of divorce you're pursuing.
Essentially you'll need to know if you're filing for a simplified divorce or a contested or uncontested.
The paperwork for uncontested and contested are in the same category.
Pro Tip: The information below is perfect for you to get an overview of the divorce filing process and also use as a guide if you will be filing for divorce on your own. However, if you are using an attorney, their team will typically be taking care of these steps as part of their proper representation of you as a client.
Preparing Your Divorce Forms
Once you've decided on the correct divorce for your situation, you can begin gathering and filling out the necessary paperwork.
If you're going for a simplified divorce, you'll need to fill out a Petition for Simplified Divorce.
Otherwise, if you are filing a contested or uncontested divorce, depending on your specific situation, there are a number of documents you, as the petitioner, will need to fill out.
Regardless of if you have children under 18 in the household or not, you will need to fill out these documents:
- Financial affidavits
- Request for alimony (if applicable)
- Affidavit of military service (if applicable)
- The petition for dissolution of marriage
When you're seeking a divorce when there are minor children in the household, you will also need to fill out these additional forms:
- Child support guidelines and support (if seeking child support)
- Child custody forms
- Parenting plan petition
Something you'll want to keep in mind is that if you or your spouse is pregnant, even if you agree on all aspects of the child's custody situation, the divorce will not be finalized until after the baby is born.
This gives both spouses time in case they change their minds about the agreement.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
Filing Your Divorce Forms
Once you've gathered and filled out all the necessary documents, you can officially file for divorce.
You'll have to take all your documents with you to the court of the circuit court for the county that you, as the petitioner, live.
Even if your spouse is living in a different county, as the petitioner, you need to file within the county you live in because all your records are there.
In addition to bringing all the paperwork with you, you'll need to bring proof of Florida residency for at least six months.
The simplest way to do this is with a valid Florida driver's license.
There are other options to prove residency if you cannot bring a valid driver's license.
You will be asked to fill out one additional form when you arrive at the clerk of courts.
The form is the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure form.
Before you can leave the clerk of courts and wait for your spouse to respond, you need to pay the required court filing fees.
The fees will vary depending on where you live.
The average filing fee cost in Florida is around $400.
If you or your spouse cannot afford the filing fees, you can request a fee waiver form and see if you're approved.
Serving Your Spouse
Once you've completed the final document, turned in your paperwork, and paid the filing fees, you've officially filed for divorce.
The next step is to serve your spouse the petition for dissolution of marriage.
Before you leave the clerk of courts, you will be handed copies of these forms for serving your spouse.
You cannot serve your spouse yourself, though.
You must bring the documents to the local sheriff's office or a process server.
Someone from the sheriff's office or a process server will deliver the papers to your spouse for you.
Whoever is delivering the papers to your spouse must deliver them personally.
The best way to do this is at their home address or at their place of work in private.
If they are not home, the papers can be left with someone who is at least 15 years of age or older.
Once your spouse has been served, they'll need to respond within 20 days.
In some instances, your spouse may not be able to be located.
If that happens, you can initiate divorce proceedings through what they call “constructive service of process.”
You can only do this after you've made a legitimate attempt at locating your spouse.
If you cannot do so, you'll need to fill out an affidavit of diligent search and inquiry stating your efforts and proving you've done plenty to find your spouse.
This needs to be notarized before turning it into the courts.
Once you've filed this document, you have to advertise in the local newspaper for a minimum of four weeks.
If you haven't heard from your spouse after those four weeks, a judge will grant your divorce for you.
Keep in mind that if you cannot get ahold of your spouse and follow through with divorce this way, you will not be able to collect any alimony or child support, even if you initially requested it.
If you end up locating your spouse, later on, you can refile for divorce to solve any disputes you may have regarding alimony or child support.
Something that Florida does a little differently than other states is that if there are children involved, both spouses must attend a seminar on divorcing with children.
You and your spouse don't have to attend at the same time unless you want to.
After you have filed for divorce and your spouse has responded, you'll both need to fill out financial disclosure forms.
These forms detail all finances you have from savings accounts, stocks, property, gross income, benefits, and more.
Doing this helps the courts decide what is fair, especially in a contested divorce.
They'll take all the finances into consideration when deciding on alimony and appropriate child support payments.
Online Divorce in Florida
No two divorces are the exact same, and no one's situation is exactly the same.
That's why there are different divorce options for people in Florida.
This includes using an online divorce service.
When choosing an online divorce, it's a great option for those who don't want to hire an attorney.
When you hire an attorney, they'll guide you through the divorce process and help you iron out any issues you and your spouse may encounter.
With an online divorce, you'll get all the guidance you need when it comes to completing and filing the paperwork, but if you are getting a contested divorce, you do not qualify to use an online divorce service.
An online divorce makes filing and getting a divorce from your spouse incredibly easy.
This works well for those who are going for a simplified or uncontested divorce.
But the catch is that using an online divorce services is not possible if you and your spouse are in disagreement about anything.
If the two of you can not agree on the divorce terms, you will have to go with the much more expensive contested divorce option.
So if you want to save a lot of money, you will need to come to an agreement because using an online divorce service tends to be a much cheaper option for people.
The prices will vary depending on the company you use, but it's typically between $100 to $400.
How to Qualify for an Online Divorce in Florida
Qualifying for an online divorce in Florida is similar to qualifying for a traditional divorce.
You'll need to prove you or your spouse's residency in the state for at least six months.
The other component to qualifying for an online divorce is ensuring you and your spouse agree with everything.
Agreeing on everything includes division of assets, children, alimony; you name it.
Do You Still Need to Go to Court?
Online divorce services are an excellent tool for getting a divorce.
Contrary to popular belief, getting an online divorce isn't entirely an online process.
You'll get all the guidance and paperwork you'll need via the online service, but you may still need to appear in court.
Even if the online divorce process goes smoothly, you and your spouse will need to appear in court to finalize the divorce.
Many people think you only need to appear in court if you have attorneys.
Without an attorney, you'll still need to go in front of a judge.
The judge will determine if you both are in 100% agreement with the settlements you've both outlined and agreed to within the petition for dissolution of marriage.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Florida?
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your divorce, it can be a sad and stressful time.
No one enjoys feeling stressed or unhappy, so it's completely normal to wonder how long it will take to finalize your divorce and open a new chapter in your life.
From the point you file for divorce to finalizing your divorce in Florida, how long it will take depends on a few factors.
The short answer is that simplified and uncontested divorces will take a lot less time than contested divorces due to you having fewer issues to work out with the divorce settlement.
If you're filing for a simplified divorce in Florida, it can take as little as 30 days to finalize your divorce.
For an uncontested divorce, it can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks.
While 4 to 8 months is a good range, every situation is different, so yours may take even longer.
Since both parties are in complete agreement on everything with a simplified and uncontested divorce, a judge has less to look over and will finalize the divorce much quicker.
As for contested divorces, they take the longest to finalize.
They take longer simply due to the differences you and your spouse need to resolve before you can finish the divorce.
The minimum amount of time it takes to complete a contested divorce in Florida is 6 months but it's not out of the ordinary for them to take 24 months or longer.
Factors That Increase Your Divorce Timeline
It's more likely that your contested divorce will take much longer than six months.
Some people who are going through a contested divorce will be going through it for a year or more.
The more time you and your spouse spend in court or at mediation meetings, the longer the process will take.
When children are involved, it can take some time to figure out a custody and support payment settlement that works for both parties.
Sometimes it's a matter of fighting for sole custody or the amount of child support someone wants.
The longer it takes you, your spouse, and your attorneys to come to child custody and support agreement, the longer you'll go without a judge finalizing your divorce.
The same thing goes for if you or your spouse are requesting alimony payments.
If you cannot come to an agreement on the amount sooner rather than later, you'll stay legally married until you both can figure out what works for you both.
Regardless of the type of divorce you're pursuing, if you or your spouse is pregnant at the time of filing, this will prolong your divorce.
No judge will sign off on the divorce in Florida until the baby is born, even if the biological father is not the spouse.
In addition to all these factors, if you live in a county where the courts are extremely busy or backed up, it's going to delay your divorce.
Whether your spouse responds to your petition for dissolution of marriage promptly will either increase or decrease how long your divorce will take.
The quicker they sign, the quicker you can move things along.
The longer they wait or if they don't show at all, the longer your divorce will take.
Factors That Decrease Your Divorce Timeline
There are plenty of factors that will prolong your divorce.
If you and your spouse are on good terms and can reach an agreement quickly, your divorce will take a lot less time than contested divorces.
When no children are involved in the divorce, there's a lot less for both parties to decide on, which also means less that the judge has to go over when determining if they can finalize the divorce.
Unfortunately, many divorces happen due to domestic violence.
If you, as the petitioner, are in this situation, the courts will prioritize your divorce.
Seeing as you and potentially children are at risk, they will speed up your divorce to ensure you and your family are safely away from your abuser.
Divorce Costs in Florida
Getting a divorce doesn't come cheap, no matter how much you wish it did.
Even uncontested or simplified divorces will cost you a couple of hundred dollars before they're finalized.
How much your divorce will cost you depends on the type of divorce you're pursuing and how long your divorce takes to complete.
Without putting a dollar amount on it, uncontested, online, and simplified divorces are going to be much more affordable than a contested divorce, regardless of what state you're filing in.
Generally speaking, a divorce in Florida where children aren't involved has an average cost of about $13,500 and with children $20,300.
In reality, it can be thousands of dollars more with children when both spouses can't agree on everything quickly.
Contested divorces are where the money tends to add up. Some people spend close to $100,000 throughout a contested divorce because they cannot agree with their spouse on the divorce settlement.
The court fees are the initial filing fees required to get the ball moving on your divorce.
The petitioner is typically the person who pays for the court fees since they're the ones initiating the divorce.
Of course, this is not always the case.
Even if you and your spouse are looking to pursue an uncontested or simplified divorce, one spouse may choose to take on the majority of the entire cost of the court fees.
Typically when the petitioner is filing for divorce, and the divorce will certainly be a contested one, they take on the entire cost of the court fees.
How much your court fees will vary.
Every county in Florida is a little different, and the court fees will not be the same across the board.
Generally, the filing fees in Florida will range anywhere from $350 to $410.
If you want to know the price before filing, you can check your county clerk's website or give them a call.
Whatever your filing fees are, there's usually an administrative fee on top of that for $25.
If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can fill out the Determination of Civil Indigent Status application.
You can find the form online or at your clerk of courts.
Once you fill this out, they'll determine if they can waive the filing fees or place you on a payment plan to eventually pay the fees in full.
Even if you're filling out this application, you'll still be responsible for the $25 administrative fee.
Attorney fees are the most costly part of any divorce.
If you and your spouse are getting a simplified divorce, you don't need to worry about paying any attorney fees.
Even with an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse could still benefit from hiring attorneys.
If you and your spouse are amicable when children and alimony requests are involved, hiring attorneys can protect both of you throughout the divorce process.
Whatever the reason is that you and your spouse need to hire attorneys, you'll be responsible for paying for your personal attorney and your spouse accountable for theirs.
There are situations where it's clear that attorneys are needed to ensure both spouses come to an agreement they're both satisfied with, but one spouse cannot afford an attorney.
In this instance, you may be appointed a free attorney, or if your spouse has more income than you, the courts may order your spouse to pay for part of all of your attorney fees.
Every attorney has their own fees and hourly rates.
When you're interviewing divorce attorneys, it's essential to ask them what their fees are so you can prepare yourself for the cost and know if they're in your price range.
Most divorce attorneys in Florida have an hourly rate of anywhere from $260 to $330 an hour.
There's always a chance you can find someone with a lower or higher hourly rate, but more often than not, $260 to $330 is what you'll see throughout the state.
When hiring a qualified divorce attorney, you won't only be paying their hourly fees more often than not.
These are other fees that you may be responsible for depending on your divorce case:
- If your attorney's office is required to mail any documents
- If they're shipping items, the necessary stamps to send them
- Any travel time your attorney must do (if applicable)
- If they charge extra for drafting any documents and letters
These are all great things to consider before hiring a divorce attorney.
If you can remember, you'll want to ask about these fees during your initial consultation.
When you and your spouse can work things out on your own without the need for attorneys, you'll be able to avoid litigation and the costs associated with the process.
If you're going through a contested divorce, you're going to end up in litigation at least once.
Unfortunately, the more conflict that you and your spouse have about one or more issues surrounding your divorce, the more time you'll spend in litigation.
More time in litigation means more money coming out of your pocket.
The more litigation sessions you and your spouse have to go through, the more your total divorce cost will rise.
Litigation costs are where you see divorces begin costing well over $50,000.
Mediation (Reduces Cost)
A great option for spouses who can sit together without significant conflict is mediation rather than litigation.
Besides mediation having much less conflict than litigation, it's also significantly less expensive than sitting in a courtroom for litigation.
When you and your spouse agree to go through mediation, you'll hire a mediator to oversee the entire meeting.
They'll let you both talk things out and intervene when you seem to be disagreeing and can't figure it out yourselves.
You and your spouse will need to pay the mediator their fee, which can vary.
The good news is that even though you're still paying someone to mediate your discussion, it can cost up to 90% less than hiring attorneys and going through litigation several times.
Before you and your spouse hire a mediator, you'll want to do a little research to understand how they charge.
Some mediators will charge hourly like attorneys, whereas others charge a flat rate per session.
You can do whatever is better for you both, but it's good to know their price.
Even though mediation excludes attorneys in the session, it doesn't mean that you and your spouse shouldn't or can't seek legal advice from a lawyer.
It may be beneficial for you to bring the proposed settlement you and your spouse came to in mediation for your attorney to look over to ensure it's fair.
Keep in mind that if you choose to seek legal advice, you'll have to pay those attorney fees too.
Online Divorce Service
Even though online divorce services aren't 100% online like they initially seem, they can still cut your divorce costs significantly.
The cost for using an online divorce service is going to depend on which website you use.
You may want to do some shopping around for the online service that suits you and your needs best.
Some online divorce services cost as low as $99 but have terrible customer service reviews.
Other online services will cost a couple of hundred dollars, which is still very affordable compared to the thousands you could spend in litigation and they have a much higher customer satisfaction rate.
When using an online divorce service, one thing to keep in mind is that they will provide you with the tools and guidance necessary, but you'll still need to pay the court and filing fees when you're ready to turn the documents in.
If you want assistance with preparing your divorce forms appropriately and instructions on how to file them correctly, using an online divorce service is a great idea to save a lot of money and hassle.
We reviewed, rated, and ranked the best online divorce services available and our #1 choice is 3StepDivorce.
What Increases the Cost of a Divorce
In short, here are some of the factors that will increase the total cost of your divorce:
- If you need to hire a divorce attorney
- If you're going through a contested divorce
- If you need to take on your spouse's attorney or court fees
- If you have to attend several litigations or mediation sessions to come to an agreement
What Decreases the Cost of a Divorce
If you're looking for a way to keep the cost of your divorce down, here are ways to do that:
- If you choose mediation instead of litigation
- If you avoid hiring an attorney
- If you begin the divorce process with an online divorce service
Custody Considerations in Florida
When you and your spouse have a child or children in the household, figuring out your custody situation is going to be a significant part of your divorce.
In a perfect world, both spouses will be able to come to an agreement about who has custody or some custody agreement that they're both happy with.
Being able to agree will prevent a judge from having to make the decision for you.
Unfortunately, children are the center of most divorce conflicts.
Many parents both want sole custody, and that's where issues arise.
If both spouses cannot agree on their own, the courts will determine a custody agreement in the child's best interest.
The courts will consider several factors when determining the custody of the child based on the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
As long as there are no issues as to why the mother or father can't have custody, the courts will have both involved.
When one spouse is granted sole custody of the child or children, they will live with that spouse full-time.
They get to make all the decisions for the child, such as their school, medical decisions, and more.
When the courts award someone sole custody, the other spouse may have visitation, or they may not.
Whether the other spouse is granted visitation depends on why they don't have joint or shared custody of the child or children.
When both spouses agree on or are granted shared custody of the child or children in the household, they both have equal decision-making ability when it comes to them.
Ideally, both parents will come together to make major decisions regardless of which house they're at at the time.
Whether the spouses come to this type of agreement on their own or not, this is the type of custody that the courts favor if both spouses are fit parents.
There are several different versions of shared custody, and what works for some may not work for others.
Here are the primary shared custody arrangements used in Florida:
- Weekly exchange: each parent gets one week at a time with the child
- Two weeks exchange: each parent gets two weeks at a time with the child
- 3-4-4-3: One parent gets three days one week, and the other gets four, then it's reversed
- 2-5-5-2: One parent gets two days, the other gets five, then back to the other for five and then two
These are some of the most popular shared custody arrangements.
While they're some of the most popular, they're not your only options.
Some parents choose to have the child or children during the school week, and the other spouse gets them on weekends.
Finding what works best for you and your family is the best way to ensure custody agreements work well for all parties.
Factors that Influence Custody Arrangements
Florida courts prefer when both spouses can come up with their custody arrangement on their own.
If that cannot happen, the courts will take all factors into consideration to find the best solution for the child.
The factors considered that influence custody are:
- The parent's ability to afford the child with or without child support
- The mental and physical health of both parents
- Any history of physical, mental, or substance abuse
- The child's preference (if old enough to make an informed decision)
- The child's relationship with both parents
A judge will evaluate the health of both parents to determine if they're healthy enough to be good parents.
They're looking for stability.
Even with chronic illnesses or mental health issues, as long as they're not severe and stability is there, it won't count against your custody agreement.
If there's a history of any type of abuse, specifically physical, the courts will favor the parent who is not an abuser.
The same goes for substance abuse.
Although, substance abuse doesn't automatically mean they won't get visitation or, eventually, shared custody.
Child Support Considerations in Florida
Child support goes hand in hand with child custody considerations.
While you're determining who gets what amount of custody, the amount and who is paying child support is bound to come up.
In Florida, child support is required by both parents in some way or another.
As with custody agreements, the courts prefer the spouses agree on their own.
They'll go over the amount and determine if it's fair.
If you can't agree on an amount, the courts will determine an amount based on several factors:
- You and your spouse's income
- Which parent pays for healthcare
- Which parent the child is with overnight more
- How many children the child support is paying for
- The ages of the children
- Alimony one spouse receives from a previous marriage
Most of the time, if one spouse earns more money than the other, they will be paying more for child support.
The higher the income, the more child support they'll pay.
How many children will determine the amount in child support because each child has their own needs, and paying for one child won't cover two or more.
The children's ages are a factor too because babies tend to be more costly due to diapers and other supplies.
Factors That Increase Child Support
Depending on your situation, you may receive or pay higher child support.
Here are some factors that will increase your child support:
- A higher income or potential to earn a higher income
- How young the child or children are
- What else the co-parent does or doesn't pay for
Factors That Decrease Child Support
Many of the factors that increase your child support check or payment are the same factors that can decrease them:
- If your income changes
- The older the children are
When you get a new job that pays more than the one you had when you and your spouse negotiated child support, your payments may decrease since you're earning a higher income.
Alimony Considerations in Florida
Alimony, sometimes called maintenance, is something to consider when getting a divorce.
You'll want to decide whether you want or need alimony before filing.
You or the courts will iron out the amount later.
There are two types of alimony in Florida:
You can request whichever you prefer, but a judge will have an ultimate say in the payments unless your spouse agrees with your proposed amount.
Whether the alimony is permanent or rehabilitative, payments can be made monthly, in one large lump sum, or a combination.
You and your spouse can try to come to an agreement on your own, but when it comes to money, disagreements tend to happen.
When requesting alimony, something to keep in mind is that even though Florida is a no-fault state, if you can prove fault on your partner, that can play a factor in the amount of alimony you pay or receive.
For example, if you can prove adultery, the judge may factor that into their decision.
When this happens, it tends to favor the one who committed no-fault.
If you're wondering what factors a judge will take into consideration when determining the type of alimony, amount, and time period, these are the factors:
- Earning capacity of both spouses
- How long the marriage lasted
- Age of each spouse
- The health of each spouse
- Financial information from both spouse
- If one spouse needs time to find a career or training for a career
Permanent alimony is when you or your spouse pays the other a fixed amount for an extended period of time.
Usually, the courts will allow alimony for several years, but sometimes, you may receive or have to pay alimony to your ex-spouse for the rest of your life.
Rehabilitative or temporary alimony is alimony that is only paid for a set amount of time.
It can be the length of the divorce so the one spouse can afford the divorce or until the other spouse can get back on their feet prior to losing a chunk of household income.
Factors That Increase Alimony
Some factors will increase how much money you receive in alimony or how much you have to pay:
- If your spouse gets a raise or a higher-paying position
- If your income decreases in any capacity
Factors That Decrease Alimony
Things happen, and there's plenty that can happen that will decrease your alimony:
- If you end up with a higher paying job
- Your spouse lost their job or took a pay cut
Division of Assets
Florida is not a community property state.
Florida governs divorces by equitable distribution.
This means that the courts will divide everything in the divorce by what's fair for both.
When you divide assets fairly, it doesn't mean that it's a 50/50 split.
In Florida, everything acquired during the marriage is considered marital property.
The exceptions to this include any inheritances or gifts sent specifically to one spouse.
Anything considered marital property is up for division.
Real estate that is marital property, in both parties' names or was purchased during the marriage will be divided fairly.
If one spouse owned the house prior to the marriage, unless the other spouse's name is on the mortgage, it belongs to the other spouse.
401k, IRA, Investments
As with real estate and other assets, 401ks, IRAs, and investments are up for division as long as you or your spouse acquired them during the marriage.
Therefore, if you had a 401k before marriage and kept putting money in it throughout the marriage, only the amount earned during the marriage can be divided.
The same thing goes for IRAs and investments.
Anything earned during the marriage is up for division unless you and your spouse can agree on what not to split.
If you or your spouse own a business, it's up for division if you opened it during the marriage.
Since Florida divides assets on equity, if one person does more for the business, they're more likely to hold onto that.
Other assets can be any boats, cars, shared bank accounts, and more.
The courts will divide these assets based on equity-like they do everything else as long as it was acquired during the marriage.
Common-Law Marriage Considerations in Florida
A common law marriage is when two people have been partners for several years and present themselves to the world as married.
While they may act and share things like any married couple, they never filed the paperwork to officially get married.
Currently, there are only seven states that recognize common-law marriages.
These include Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Montana.
Florida used to allow common-law marriages but abolished the practice in 1968.
Since Florida doesn't recognize common-law marriage, separating from them can be a lot easier since you don't need to go through the courts or file any documents.
If you and your partner are in what Florida used to call a common law marriage and share a lot of assets, you'll need to either come to an agreement on how to divide them yourselves or get attorneys involved.
In some states, if you're in a common-law marriage in one state that recognizes the practice but moves to one that doesn't, the courts will honor the common law marriage. Florida is one that will recognize a common-law marriage as legal if from one of the seven states that allow it.
The reason that Florida will recognize a common-law marriage that occurred in one of the seven states is because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the United States Constitution.
This clause requires all states to recognize common law marriage if it happened in a state that allows it.
Alternatives to Divorce in Florida
Deciding to end your marriage is not an easy decision to make.
Often people get divorced because the marriage isn't what it used to be.
Even if you know divorce is probably your best option, leaving the comfort you've had for however long isn't easy to do.
When you're on the fence about filing for divorce because you're wondering if there are other options, there are.
They don't always work, and you may end up divorced, but there are many options you can try before heading down to the clerk of courts with divorce papers.
In many states, legal separation is an option to try before officially divorcing.
It requires a court order that both spouses separate from one another for a defined period of time to see if the separation allows them to work on their marriage or if divorce is truly the way to go.
Florida is one of the few states that doesn't officially have legal separation.
You and your spouse may separate, but you don't need to get a court order to do so.
You can decide who stays in the family home while the other stays elsewhere.
This trial separation is a great way to work on your marriage without having to see your spouse every day.
It provides time to reflect on the marriage and figure out if it's able to be saved.
Since Florida doesn't have a legal separation, you and your spouse can stay separated for as long as you'd like.
This allows both parties to decide how long they're separate and then if they need more or are ready to live under the same roof again.
If you're unsure about why you would try separation first, here are some of the most common reasons people try:
- One or both spouses think the marriage can be fixed
- Both spouses can work on the marriage separately
- For one spouse to continue receiving necessary health benefits
- For any spiritual or religious reasons pertaining to divorce
Annulments are the most common alternative to divorce, but they are applicable in certain situations.
An annulment legally deems the marriage as void and as if it never happened.
People pursue annulments for reasons that tend to be very personal to them.
Not everyone will qualify for an annulment, and the reasons someone chooses to get one are the reasons that would qualify them for one.
As preferable as it is sometimes to want your marriage to have never happened, disliking your spouse for whatever reason isn't enough to qualify you for an annulment.
Unless you have one of the reasons that would qualify for an annulment, a judge will push for a divorce.
Qualifying for an annulment is more complicated than simply wanting to leave your spouse.
The reasons you may be seeking an annulment include:
- You were underage at the time of the marriage without parental consent
- Your spouse committed fraud
- Your spouse is legally married to another person
Fraud is a broad term when it comes to an annulment.
If you find out and can prove that your spouse lied to you to get them to marry you, this will qualify you for an annulment.
This works because the entire marriage was based on a lie or lies which got you married in the first place.
Being married to more than one person at a time is illegal not just in Florida but the United States.
If you married your spouse without knowing they were already married, an annulment is an option for you.
Unfortunately, people get married under duress.
Anyone who signed a marriage license while under threat from their spouse can get an annulment since they weren't married under their own will.
Marriages that occur when one or more spouses were married under 17 years of age can qualify for an annulment as long as parental consent wasn't obtained.
If you had no parental consent, in the eyes of the law, you weren't able to make that decision yourself.
Lastly, if you married a close relative such as a first cousin, sibling, or another close relative, you can file for an annulment.
Work it Out Together
Working out your marriage with your spouse is something to consider before filing the divorce paperwork on pure emotion.
While it's not always a possibility, most people prefer to try and work things out first before ending the marriage.
Working it out together can look differently depending on your situation.
Many people do a trial separation to see how living apart would be and if they can handle it or if their feelings for the person are too strong to cut ties.
The biggest thing with trying to work out the marriage is understanding where the problems are.
If the romance is gone, planning date nights and doing romantic things for one another may bring that spark back.
If the issues are more serious, not that no romance isn't a big issue, couples and individual therapy are worth looking into.
Seeking counseling is one of the most popular alternatives to getting divorced.
Finding a qualified couples therapist can help you and your partner understand the root of your problems and how to work on fixing them.
In addition to couples therapy, attending individual sessions can help you speak more freely and understand your role in the marriage.
Both types of counseling can help you, and your spouse comes back together or proves that the marriage is unfortunately over.
Counseling is a wonderful tool, but it can be draining on both spouses.
Learning to lean on one another throughout the process is going to be crucial to working through everything as a team.
Considering a divorce can really take an emotional toll on even the strongest people.
If you are in need of therapy with both privacy and convenience, we recommend Online-Therapy.com. Their incredible service gives you access to instant professional help, on any device, wherever you are in the world.
An open marriage isn't for everyone, but it's a great alternative to consider.
Open marriages aren't as common in the United States as they are in other parts of the world, but it could be exactly what your marriage needs.
When you propose an open marriage to your spouse, you'll need to have boundaries and rules in place so that both of you are comfortable at all times.
For example, whether you both want to know if the other is seeing someone else or keeping that private.
An open marriage allows both spouses to get whatever it is they feel like they're missing from their spouse.
It may sound counterproductive, but sometimes engaging with another person helps repair a damaged relationship and it's out in the open instead of having to sneak around to date someone else during your divorce.
If you and your spouse have children together, considering a parenting marriage may be on the table for you both.
In a parenting marriage, you and your spouse will stay living together to parent your children to the best of your ability.
Parenting marriages are a non-romantic partnership where the sole focus is parenting the child or children.
Instead of focusing on your marriage to one another, you put energy into providing a happy and healthy environment for the children.
As with an open marriage, a parenting marriage needs to have open boundaries and agreements on what the marriage will look like.
There's not one singular way to have a parenting marriage, and what works for you may not work for another couple.
The spouses will have an agreement on how to raise their children while living lives that are independent of one another.
While this seems like you're staying married, you're allowing each other to continue living their life as a single person but sticking to your parenting marriage.
To keep everything in the household as normal as possible, both spouses stay under the same roof.
The best way for this to work is to allow you and your spouse to have separate rooms so you can have your space.
A parenting marriage is very similar to an open marriage in many ways.
The main way is that you can decide if you're going to see other people while in a parenting marriage.
This won't work for everyone, but it's worth a try.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.