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.
But 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. (Florida Statutes – Title VI §61.021.)
The other requirement is that you need to have “grounds” (legal reasons) for divorce. Florida is one of several states that have eliminated “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. (Florida Statutes – Title VI §61.052 (1).)
To obtain a no-contest 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 definitely the fastest route. But its requirements regarding children will probably disqualify many divorcing couples in the state. In order to use this method, you have to meet all the following conditions:
If you don't qualify for the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you'll have to use file for a Regular Dissolution of Marriage. Although this 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 resolve all of your divorce-related issues. An uncontested divorce using this method can proceed much more quickly than a contested one.
It’s important that you follow each step involved in the uncontested divorce process. 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.
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.
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. But you can use a private process server, as well. 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.”
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 the spouse’s participation.
Note that you’ll likely have to file a Family Law Financial Affidavit (short form or long form, depending on your income). You can do this when you file your petition. If you don’t do it at that time, then you’ll have to 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 you’re: pursuing a Simplified Dissolution; or, you have no minor children, no support issues, and have filed a written settlement agreement disposing of all financial issues.
Be advised that if you’re calculating the cost of an uncontested divorce, 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”.
Also note that if you have minor children, you’ll have to complete a parenting course before the court will issue a divorce judgment. (Florida Statutes – Title VI §61.21.)
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.
It helps to have attorneys or a qualified mediator assist you in negotiating and preparing a written divorce settlement agreement, especially if you have young children or there’s a significant financial component to your agreement. These types of written agreements tend to go into greater detail than oral agreements. The more that’s spelled out, the less chance of disagreement about the meaning of a particular provision if a problem arises in the future. This can save you time, money, and anxiety down the road.
The court’s website provides agreement forms for various scenarios, but these are less inclusive than you’d ordinarily find in an agreement prepared by a lawyer or mediator.
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 either 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. (Florida Statutes – Title VI §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.
You want the judge to incorporate the agreement you’ve reached into the divorce judgment. 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.