Divorce can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. But it doesn't have to involve a drawn-out, expensive court battle. If you and your spouse can agree on how you'll deal with the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage, you can save money and time by getting an uncontested divorce in Florida.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce (also known as "dissolution of marriage") in Florida, you must meet three basic requirements: state residency, agreement on the reason for your divorce, and agreement on the issues in your case.
In order to get a dissolution of your marriage in the Florida courts, either you or your spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months immediately before you file for divorce. (Fla. Stat. § 61.021 (2022).)
You must have a legally accepted reason (or "ground") to get divorced in any state. When you're filing for an unconteted divorce in Florida, you and your spouse will simply agree that your marriage is "irretrievably broken," which basically means the rift in your relationship is so great that the marriage can't be salvaged. (Fla. Stat. § 61.052(1)(a) (202e).)
Before you file for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will have to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
Once you've agreed on all of these issues, you'll need to put the provisions in a written divorce settlement agreement (sometimes called a "property settlement agreement" or "marital settlement agreement").
If you haven't agreed on all the issues involved in ending your marriage before you start the legal process, your case will proceed as a traditional contested divorce. This means you'll probably have to go through several legal steps before you can get your final divorce, including:
Even if you manage to reach a settlement before going to a final trial, all of this takes time and costs money (think attorneys' fees).
There's no need for any of these extra steps with an uncontested divorce. That's why—as we explain further below—uncontested divorces are quicker, cost less, and result in less stress for the entire family.
To obtain an uncontested divorce, Florida law provides two paths to choose from: simplified dissolution and regular dissolution.
For a relatively easy divorce, Florida has what is known as a "Simplified Dissolution of Marriage." This is the fastest route, but not everyone will qualify. In order to use this process, you have to meet all of the following conditions:
When you use this simplified method, you and your spouse will jointly file the divorce petition. That means you'll be able to skip some of the additional procedural steps discussed below. (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.105(a) (2023).)
If you don't qualify for the simplified dissolution process, you'll have to file for a regular dissolution of marriage. Although the regular method can be somewhat more time consuming, it still allows you to have your case move forward as an uncontested divorce, as long as you and your spouse have agreed on how to resolve all of the issues.
You first step will be to fill out the necessary paperwork. Florida's forms for filing an uncontested divorce include the following:
Once you've completed and signed the applicable forms, you'll have to file them with the court. You do this by providing a copy to the circuit court clerk, either by delivering hard copies or using the court's electronic filing system.
You should file the divorce papers in the county where you and your spouse last lived together with the shared intention of staying married—in other words, before at least one of you decided to end the marriage. (Fla. Stat. § 47.011 (2023); Butler v. Butler, 866 So.2d 1280 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004).)
You'll almost always need to pay a fee to file the divorce papers (more on that below).
If you and your spouse have filed a joint petition using Florida's simplified dissolution method, simply make sure that both of you have copies of all the paperwork. Otherwise, you'll need to "serve" your spouse with the petition and other papers, along with a summons (the official notice that you've filed for divorce).
Normally, petitioners serve the divorce papers by having the sheriff's office or a private process server hand-deliver them to the respondent spouse. But when you and your spouse are cooperating on an uncontested divorce, you can bypass this standard procedure by having your spouse sign and file an "Acceptance and Waiver of Service of Process by Sheriff." Your spouse may then submit to the court an "Answer, Waiver, and Request for Copy of Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage." By doing this, your spouse is effectively agreeing with the contents of the divorce petition and waiving the need for any further notice of proceedings other than receiving a copy of the final divorce judgment.
After you've filed the divorce petition, Florida normally has a mandatory 20-day waiting period before you can get your final divorce decree. However, a judge may waive some or all of the waiting period if circumstances show that it would be unjust not to do so. (Fla. Stat. § 61.19 (2023).)
In the meantime, if you and your spouse have minor children, be sure to take the mandatory parenting course, which you normally must attend within 45 days of filing the petition. The court may excuse someone from attending the course, but only for a good reason. (Fla. Stat. § 61.21(4) (2023).) These courses are usually offered online by court-approved providers, and they typically cost around $25. Try to take the course as soon as possible if you want a quick uncontested divorce.
Once the 20-day waiting period has ended, you may ask the court to schedule your divorce hearing. On the date of your hearing, try to get to court a little early, so you can familiarize yourself with your surroundings and let the court personnel know that you've arrived.
Hearings for uncontested divorces are usually short. The judge will make sure you've met the residency requirement. You can prove that with any of the following:
(Fla. Stat. § 61.052(2) (2023).)
The judge will also need to determine that you've met all the necessary conditions for the particular divorce method you've chosen (simplified or regular).
As a rule, uncontested divorce is a lot cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because many couples can get through the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them—which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.
The basic expense for an uncontested divorce will be the court fee for filing the divorce papers. Florida's filing fee varies from county to county, but expect to pay around $400 (as of 2023, but always subject to change). If you can't afford to pay, you can request a fee waiver. (Fla. Stat. § 57.082(1) (2023).)
Beyond the filing fee, your costs will depend on whether you get a "pure" do-it-yourself divorce or you need some help with the process (more on that below).
The Florida Courts offer an Online Self-Help Center to help divorcing couples prepare divorce paperwork without an attorney. Using this information, you might be able to get through the divorce process all on your own if you and your spouse can work out a settlement agreement, and you have the time and other resources needed to complete and file all of the divorce paperwork. But you should know that you can get additional help with any of these steps.