Divorce In Florida FAQ

Get answers to the most common questions about divorce in Florida.

By , Legal Editor

The divorce process can be full of challenges. Along with the emotional and practical consequences of ending a marriage, you'll need to navigate a legal system that's usually unfamiliar. And you'll almost always be dealing with financial concerns. But you can find answers to your questions about divorce laws in Florida, as well as the help you need.

Who may file for divorce in Florida?

If you want a Florida divorce (or "dissolution of marriage," as it's called in Florida laws), you'll have to prove that you meet the residency requirement. You or your spouse must have lived in the state during the six-month period just before you filed your divorce papers. (Learn more about how to file for divorce in Florida.)

Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.

What are the legal grounds for divorce in Florida?

When you file for divorce, you need to have a legally acceptable reason (or "ground") for ending your marriage. Florida is a "no-fault" state—the state doesn't allow you to file for divorce based on a spouse's misconduct, like adultery or cruelty.

Except for the rare instances when one spouse is mentally incapacitated, Floridians who are filing for divorce will simply declare that their marriage is "irretrievably broken." Essentially, that means that they can't get along, and there's no reasonable chance of fixing their relationship.

Does Florida require separation before divorce?

No. Couples don't have to live separate and apart before they may file for a dissolution of marriage in Florida or get their final divorce decree.

Of course, many divorcing couples choose to separate before their divorce is final. If you are thinking of this option, you might want to consider whether it's in your interests to move out of the family home during your divorce.

What are the different types of divorce in Florida?

Florida has basically three types of divorce (known as "dissolution of marriage" in the state).

  • Uncontested dissolution of marriage. As in all states, you may get an uncontested divorce in Florida if, before you file your initial divorce papers, you and your spouse have agreed about all the legal issues involved in ending your marriage (including property division, alimony, child custody, and child support).
  • Simplified dissolution of marriage. Florida also offers an even easier type of uncontested divorce known as simplified dissolution of marriage. But you may not use this method if you and your spouse have any minor children (or a child on the way), either or both of you are seeking alimony, and neither of you has lived in the state for the past six months. (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.105(a) (2023).)
  • Contested divorce. If you don't have an agreement by the time you start the divorce process, your case will at least start out as a contested divorce, even if you eventually reach a settlement agreement (more on that below).

How much does divorce cost in Florida?

When you file your dissolution petition to start the divorce process, you'll generally need to pay a filing fee. These fees are different from county to county in Florida, but they usually run around $400. If you're very low income, you may apply for a waiver of the filing fee and other court costs.

Beyond court fees, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:

  • whether you can file for an uncontested divorce, which would allow you to get a DIY divorce, and
  • whether you'll need to hire a lawyer to handle your divorce—and, if you do, how much the attorney charges per hour and how long it will take to resolve the disputes in your case.

How long will it take to get divorced in Florida?

Florida has a 20-day waiting period, starting from when you file your dissolution petition, before you may ask the court to schedule your final divorce hearing. But if you can show that waiting that long would cause an "injustice," the judge might agree to sign your final judgment sooner than that. (Fla. Stat. § 61.19 (2023).)

In most cases, it will take longer than 20 days to get divorced—sometimes much longer. As with cost, the specific circumstances of your case will determine just how long it takes. In general, uncontested divorces go relatively quickly, as long as you've filed all of the proper paperwork (including a financial affidavit) and taken the mandatory parenting course for those with minor children. If you don't have kids and meet the other qualifications, Florida's streamlined "simplified dissolution" process will be the fastest path to a final divorce. But with either a simplified dissolution or a regular uncontested divorce, you might have to wait a while to get your hearing scheduled, particularly if there are court backlogs in the county where you filed.

In contrast, if your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months (and more court hearings) to the process. And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point in the process (more on that below), going to trial will require even more time—usually more than a year.

How is marital property divided in Florida?

Florida is what's known as an "equitable division" state. That means that when a judge divides a couple's marital property in divorce—including deciding which spouse keeps their house—the judge will aim at what's fair. Often that means a 50/50 split, but not necessarily. Judges may come up with a different property distribution after considering a number of relevant factors. Even though splitting retirement accounts or a family business can be very complicated, the equitable division rule still applies. The same goes for assigning responsibility for debts that you and your spouse still owe.

How is child custody decided in Florida?

All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in any Florida divorce must be based on what would be in the children's best interests. Unless it would be harmful for children, it's a state policy that they should have frequent and continuing contact with both of their parents, and that the parents should share decision-making responsibility for their kids.

Judges must consider a number of factors when they're deciding what would be best for the children, including the custody preferences of children who are intelligent enough to make a meaningful choice that they understand.

What are the child support guidelines in Florida?

Like all states in the U.S., Florida has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn how child support is calculated in Florida, including when support amounts may depart from the guideline.

How does alimony work in Florida?

Florida law allows for different types of alimony for some divorcing or divorced spouses:

  • temporary alimony during the divorce process
  • short-term bridge-the-gap alimony
  • rehabilitative alimony
  • durational alimony, and
  • permanent alimony.

After determining that one spouse needs support and the other spouse can pay it, Florida judges must consider a long list of specific circumstances in the case before deciding the type and amount of alimony to award. But once they've taken all of those factors into account, it's really up to the judges to decide what's fair in any particular case. Florida law doesn't have a formula for calculating alimony.

Can we agree to an out-of-court settlement in our Florida divorce?

Yes, you may agree with your spouse about how to handle any of the issues in your divorce at any point during the process, from before you've filed the initial divorce papers right up to just before a trial.

You'll need to submit your divorce settlement agreement to the court. At your divorce hearing, a judge will review and approve your agreement (unless there's a problem) before signing the final dissolution decree.

What happens if we can't agree on a divorce settlement?

If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about any of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Anytime you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's always in your best interests to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair for both you and your ex.

Can I get a Florida divorce without my spouse?

Usually you can't get divorced without your spouse. When you file for divorce in Florida (as in all states), you must serve your spouse with the divorce papers. This not only provides formal notice of the divorce but also gives your spouse the opportunity to respond to anything you've included or requested in the divorce petition.

But if you absolutely can't find your spouse, after making diligent efforts to do so, you may ask the court for permission to use an alternative method of giving notice about the divorce—usually by publishing a notice in a newspaper.

Regardless of the method of service, if your spouse doesn't file a response to your petition on time, you may get a default divorce without your spouse's participation. (Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.500 (2023).)

Can I get an annulment in Florida?

If you want to get an annulment, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the narrow grounds for void or voidable marriages. Learn more about annulment in Florida, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of annulling a marriage.

What if my spouse is abusive?

If you're in danger, call the police or a domestic violence hotline like 800-799-SAFE. But be sure to consider the privacy of your computer, smartphone, or tablet when seeking help online or over the phone. Some victims might use the same device, network, or phone plan as the abuser, allowing the abuser to see the victim's search or call history or otherwise track their activity. Your abuser may also be able to track your whereabouts. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and RAINN both provide information and help on protecting your privacy and safety.

Even before you file for divorce, you may get a temporary restraining order (or "injunction for protection against domestic violence"), without notifying your spouse, if you're in immediate danger. Consult your local court clerk or a lawyer. If a judge issues a temporary injunction on this basis ("ex parte"), there will be a court hearing within a number of days. At that hearing, your spouse will be able to appear and argue against the order. As part of the protective injunction, the judge may:

  • order your abuser to stay away from your home (even if you were living together there)
  • approve a temporary parenting plan that gives you 100% of time-sharing, and
  • award you exclusive, temporary control of a family pet.

(Fla. Stat. § 741.30 (2022).)

Learn more about Florida's domestic violence laws.

Where can I get more information and help with my Florida divorce?

You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Florida. Here are some other resources:

  • Court services. The Florida Courts provide an online self-help center, where you can find forms and instructions on filing for divorce. You may also find resources from Florida Law Help.
  • Mediation. If you want the cost-and-time advantages of an uncontested divorce but are having trouble agreeing with your spouse about all of the issues, divorce mediation can help you find solutions and common ground. At the end of the process, the mediator will typically prepare a written document that reflects any of the agreements you've reached. And if you still have disputes once you've filed for divorce, the judge might order you to participate in mediation, as long as you can afford to pay for it. Also, some local courts in Florida will automatically require mediation in any contested divorce before a final hearing.
  • Online divorce. If you've reached a complete settlement but need more help with the uncontested divorce forms than you can get through the court, you might try an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms, based on your answers to a questionnaire.
  • Family law attorneys. Of course, there are situations when you really need a lawyer's help—such as when you spouse has already hired an attorney, when you haven't been able to reach a fair settlement even after mediation, when you have very complex assets to divide, or in many cases involving domestic violence. If you have low income, you might qualify for free or low-cost legal aid. And if your spouse earns substantially more than you do, the judge might order your spouse to pay your attorney's fees at the end of the case. When there's a good chance that will happen, some lawyers might be willing to take your care even if you can't pay up front. And when you're ready, here are some questions to ask before hiring a divorce attorney.