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 obtain a dissolution of your marriage, either you or your spouse must have resided in Florida 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. Florida only allows "no-fault" divorce, so you don't need to claim that your spouse engaged in a certain type of misconduct (such as adultery or cruelty) as a reason for ending the marriage.
There are two acceptable "no-fault" divorce grounds in Florida:
Needless to say, most Florida couples file for divorce on the ground that their marriage is irretrievably broken. (Fla. Stat. § 61.052(1) (2022).)
Before you file for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble agreeing about any of these issues—or any other matters you want to address in your divorce—mediation might help you find solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document to prepare your written marital settlement agreement (sometimes referred to as a "property settlement agreement" or "divorce settlement agreement").
The Florida Courts offer an Online Self-Help Center to help divorcing couples prepare divorce paperwork without an attorney. There are separate packages of forms for the spouse who starts the divorce process (the "petitioner") and the other spouse (the "respondent"). The forms you'll use will also depend on whether there are minor or dependent children involved.
To simplify matters, you could instead file for divorce online with a service that will complete the proper uncontested divorce forms for you, based on your answers to a questionnaire. These services will typically also help you create a settlement agreement, and some will take care of filing the divorce papers, for an additional fee.
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) (2022).)
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. An uncontested divorce using this method can proceed much more quickly than a contested divorce.
Florida's forms for filing an uncontested divorce include:
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 (2022); 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 (2022).)
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) (2022).) 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, 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 (sworn written statement) of someone who can verify your residency. (Fla. Stat. § 61.052(2) (2022).) 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 2022, but always subject to change). If you can't afford to pay, you can request a fee waiver. (Fla. Stat. § 57.082(1) (2022).)
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.