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Florida Divorce Basics

This article explains the divorce process in Florida.

Grounds for Divorce

In Florida, either spouse may file for divorce if the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning there is no chance for reconciliation, or if one of the spouses has been mentally incapacitated for at least three years.  You do not have to prove that the other person was at fault in order to get a divorce.

Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

At least one spouse must reside in Florida for six months prior to filing a petition for divorce. You must file the petition in the circuit court where you or your spouse live. The court may enter a final judgment for divorce as soon as 20 days after you file the petition if all of the required paperwork is complete. However, if you can show that it would be unjust to wait 20 days, the court may enter judgment at an earlier date. 

(Do you have questions about divorce? Find answers to at Florida Divorce FAQs.)

Property Division in Florida

Florida is an equitable distribution state. This means the court will distribute all marital property fairly, and will start with the assumption it will be divided equally. Marital property includes personal possessions, real property (such as your home), income, and debts acquired during the marriage. The court may divide property unequally if the facts justify it - the factors the court will consider include the economic circumstances of the spouses, the duration of the marriage, the contributions of each spouse to the home and children's education, and whether it would be in the children's best interest for one parent to stay in the marital home. A complete list of factors can be found here. In the alternative, you and your spouse can decide together how to divide your property.

Alimony

Florida courts may grant temporary or permanent alimony to a spouse who has an actual need for alimony, as long as the other spouse has the ability to pay. The court will consider all relevant economic factors to determine the amount of alimony, including the standard of living established during the marriage, the financial resources and earning capacity of both spouses, and the duration of the marriage. If one spouse committed adultery during the marriage, the court may consider that fact as well. You may request a modification of the alimony amount if your or your spouse's financial situation changes significantly.

Child Support

Florida courts use the official state guidelines to determine what amount child support is appropriate. Child support payments continue until the child is 18 unless the court orders otherwise. The court will also make an order regarding health insurance coverage for the child and may order parents to share the cost of medical expenses not covered by insurance. Support payments can be paid directly to the recipient parent or withheld from the paying parent's paycheck. To modify a child support order, a parent must show a substantial change in circumstances such as a significant change in income, or must prove that the modification is in the best interest of the child. Child support orders in Florida are enforced by the Child Support Enforcement Bureau.

Child Custody

Florida courts determine child custody based on the best interest of the child without regard to the sex of the parent or the child. The court will order the parents to share parenting responsibilities unless shared responsibility would be detrimental to the child. In making its determination, the court will evaluate several factors, including which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent contact with the other parent, the emotional ties between each parent and the child, the parents' ability to provide the child with material needs, and the child's adjustment to home, school, and community. The judge will then make orders regarding the child's primary residence and visitation schedule with the other parent. Alternatively, parents may meet with a court appointed psychologist to develop a recommended parenting plan. To modify a custody order, parents must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that it would be in the child's best interest to change the custody plan.

(Learn more about "Best Interest of the Child" standard to determine child custody in Florida.)

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