An uncontested divorce is one in which the spouses have resolved all their marital issues. This means they've reached an agreement on such things as custody (also known as "parental responsibility"), child support, parenting time (visitation), alimony (spousal support), and division of marital property.
In contrast, a divorce is "contested" when the spouses don't agree on some or all aspects of the divorce, meaning that a judge will hold a trial, examine the evidence, and call witnesses. The contested divorce process takes quite a while.
An uncontested divorce is much faster and cheaper than traditional divorce—spouses can often use a DIY solution like an online divorce service. They do, though, also have the option of getting professional help.
Whether a divorce is uncontested or contested, Florida still has certain conditions you'll have to meet before you can proceed. The first is a residency requirement. In order to obtain a dissolution of your marriage, either you or your spouse must reside in Florida for six months prior to filing for divorce. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.021.)
The next requirement is that you need to have "grounds" (legal reasons) for divorce. Florida allows "no-fault" divorce, so you don't need to claim "fault" (such as adultery or cruelty) as a basis for divorce. There are two acceptable "no-fault" grounds. One is that that the marriage is irretrievably broken, which basically means the rift in your relationship is so great that the marriage can't be salvaged. The other is that a spouse is mentally incapacitated. In order to qualify for this ground, the spouse has to have been declared legally incapacitated for at least three years prior to the filing of the divorce. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.052 (1).)
If you have minor children, you'll also have to complete a parenting course before the court will issue a divorce judgment. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.021.)
To obtain an uncontested divorce, Florida law provides two paths to choose from. 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:
If you don't qualify for the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, 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 uncontested, as long as you and your spouse have agreed on how to resolve all of your divorce-related issues. An uncontested divorce using this method can proceed much more quickly than a contested one.
Fill out the petition. You begin by completing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. (There are a few different forms to choose from, depending on your circumstances.) The petition provides the court and your spouse with relevant information, including what you're asking the court to do in your divorce (award child support, alimony, and so on). You can find this form, as well as other Florida uncontested divorce forms, on the Florida Courts website.
File the petition. When you've completed the petition, you'll have to file it with the court. You do this by providing a copy to the circuit court clerk in the county where you and your spouse last lived together, or in the county where either of you currently resides. Be advised that Florida courts do charge filing fees. If you believe paying those fees would be a financial burden, you can ask the court to waive them, by filing an "Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status."
Give the petition to your spouse. Once you file the petition with the clerk, it has to be "served on" (delivered to) your spouse, together with a "summons." You'll usually do this through the sheriff's office, or you can use a private process server instead. If your spouse is cooperative, you can bypass service by having your spouse sign and file an "Acceptance and Waiver of Service of Process by Sheriff."
Wait for an answer. If your spouse doesn't file one of the forms for answering a petition, within 20 days of being served, the court can enter a "default," which means the divorce can proceed without your spouse's participation.
Depending on your circumstances, you might have to file a "Family Law Financial Affidavit" (short form or long form, depending on your income). If you don't do this when you file your petition, you can serve it on your spouse within 45 days of when the spouse was served with the petition.
You don't have to file the financial affidavit if:
Although you and your spouse can enter into an oral agreement on resolving your marital issues, you should consider memorializing the terms in a divorce settlement agreement (sometimes referred to as a "property settlement agreement" or a "marital settlement agreement"). This agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse and is binding on both of you. You can enter into it either before or after you file for divorce.
If you choose to work with one, an attorney can give you advice on your proposed settlement, make sure you complete the paperwork correctly and see that you file your paperwork on time. Keep in mind that there's another kind of professional—a mediator—who can help spouses reach agreements and prepare the paperwork that finalizes the divorce.
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, which you can prove with a valid Florida driver's license, a Florida voter's registration card, a valid Florida identification card, or the testimony or affidavit of someone who can verify your residency. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.052 (2).) The judge will also need to determine that you've met all the necessary conditions for the particular divorce method you've chosen.
If you and your spouse haven't signed a marital settlement agreement, you'll tell the court the terms of your oral agreement. If you have a written settlement agreement, you'll present it to the judge for review. Once the court is satisfied that everything is in order, you'll get a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. You can find judgment forms on the court website.