Grounds for Divorce in Florida

Learn more about the process for ending your marriage in Florida.

By , Attorney

Unlike most days in Florida, not all marriages are full of sunshine and good times. If your marriage has reached its ending point, it might be time for you to consider filing for divorce.

What are the Grounds for Divorce in Florida?

Florida is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you don't need to explain why your marriage ended. On the contrary, to file for dissolution of your marriage—or divorce—you only need to state that your marriage is irretrievably broken, and there's no chance that either of you can repair it. In other words, your relationship and your marriage are so damaged that neither of you will resume living together as spouses, and you don't believe that feeling is going to change in the future.

There are still some states that allow a person to allege "grounds" for divorce, like adultery, bigamy, abandonment, or others, but it's not the only way to ask for your marriage to end. For example, in Alabama and Georgia, you can ask for a divorce based on your spouse's infidelity or you can choose no-fault grounds, like irreconcilable differences. Regardless of the reason underlying your divorce, the result will be the termination of your marriage.

What About Mental Illness in Florida?

Alleging that your marriage is beyond repair isn't the only option for getting divorced in Florida. The law allows one spouse to claim that the other is mentally incapacitated as a reason for divorce. However, the rules are very strict for this type of allegation, and the spouse asking for the divorce using this ground must prove:

  • the mentally ill spouse underwent a court hearing and was classified as mentally incapacitated at least three years prior to the divorce petition, and
  • the spouse asking for a divorce sent notice of the divorce proceedings to the other spouse's nearest blood relative or guardian.

If your spouse doesn't have a guardian, the court will appoint someone to look after your spouse's best interests during the divorce proceedings, and in the end, a judge may order you to pay spousal support to your incapacitated ex-spouse.

What are the Basics of Divorce in Florida?

Before a judge will grant a divorce, couples must prove that they meet their state's residency requirement. Florida law requires at least one spouse to reside in the state for at least six months immediately before filing for a divorce. Simply put, this means that at least one of you must hold a Florida driver's license, valid Florida id card, voter's registration card, or offer testimony by a third party to prove your residence. The courts use this residency requirement to prevent one spouse from trying to hand-pick a state or judge that will deliver a favorable divorce award—also called forum shopping.

Once you've proven your residency, the court will evaluate your case and what happens next will depend on your specific circumstances and your spouse's response to the divorce papers.

If you don't have children.

If you and your spouse don't have minor children and your spouse agrees that your marriage is over, the court will grant your petition for divorce after it addresses the major legal issues like property division and spousal support.

If you have children or your spouse disagrees about the state of your marriage.

In Florida, if you and your spouse have minor children, or if your spouse wants to try and save your marriage, the court may:

  • order either or both spouses to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, or rabbi before issuing a final decision
  • pause the divorce proceedings—called a continuance—for a maximum of three months to enable the parties to reconcile, or
  • take any other action that it believes is necessary and in the spouse's or children's best interest.

The last point seems vague, which allows the court to retain total control. If at any point during the divorce process a court believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken, whether, through testimony or evidence presented by a spouse, a judge must grant the divorce.

You're probably wondering how a judge can decide when your marriage is broken? A judge must believe that you and your spouse can no longer live together because your difficulties are so deep and substantial that nothing offered by the court can repair the marital relationship. After all, what judge wants to order a couple to therapy if neither party wants to remain married?

For example, in one Florida case, a husband introduced testimony that his wife's political activities caused him inconvenience and unhappiness, and this was enough to convince the judge that the marriage was broken beyond repair.

Can We Work Something Out Together?

Yes. Courts encourage couples to work together to decide what's best for their family. Sometimes, spouses can agree on certain matters, like property division and spousal support. But, if custody and child support are issues in your divorce, a judge will need to review and approve your agreement before issuing a final judgment. Typically, this is just a formality, but most states require court approval for all child-related issues.

Even if you can't resolve everything, any decisions you can make together will move the divorce process along faster.

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