Ending your marriage can be expensive as well as stressful. But if you're looking to bring down the cost of divorce in Florida, you have options—as long as you and your spouse can work together and agree about the issues. And if you're having trouble doing that, help is available.
Our survey on the cost of divorce showed that for people who hired lawyers to handle their cases, the biggest expense—by far—was the attorneys' fees. So if you want to save money, your first question should be whether you can handle your own DIY divorce, or you need to hire a lawyer. There are a few issues that go into answering that question, but the most important one is your ability to work out a divorce settlement agreement with your spouse.
If the two of you can agree at the outset of the process on all the issues involved in ending your marriage, you may file for one of the types of uncontested divorce in Florida: simplified dissolution or uncontested dissolution. There are differences between those types, but many couples find that they can navigate either of them without having to pay expensive legal fees.
Florida offers a streamlined divorce process known as simplified dissolution of marriage. But if you want to use this process, you must meet all of the qualifications, including:
(Fla. Fam. Law Rules Proc., rule 12.901(a) (2022).)
When you file your joint simplified dissolution petition, the court clerk will charge a filing fee. The fees vary from county to county in Florida, but they are usually about $400.
Because you'll file a joint simplified dissolution petition (signed by both spouses at the court clerk's office), you will be able to skip some steps in the regular divorce process.
For many couples, the only cost for a simplified dissolution will be the standard filing fee for all divorce petitions. The fee varies slightly from county to county, but it's usually about $400. You might have some additional costs if you need help from a mediator or a lawyer to negotiate and prepare your property settlement agreement (more on those costs below).
If you don't qualify for a simplified dissolution in Florida, you may still get an inexpensive uncontested divorce by filing for a regular dissolution of marriage along with a complete settlement agreement that covers:
This type of divorce will take a bit longer than a simplified dissolution, but it won't necessarily cost any more.
If you can't afford the filing fees for a simplified or regular dissolution petition, you may submit an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status. You'll need to provide detailed information about your income, assets, debts, and other financial liabilities. The court clerk will let you know if you qualify for a payment plan or a waiver of the filing fees. (Fla. Stat. §§ 57.081, 57.082 (2022).)
If you're having trouble agreeing with your spouse about all of the issues in your divorce, you don't necessarily have to pursue a contested divorce. Instead, you could try mediation. When the process is successful, the mediator will usually prepare a document with your agreements. Some mediators may even help with filing the uncontested divorce papers.
The cost of divorce mediation varies a lot, depending on the mediator's rate, how many issues you need to resolve, and how long it will take to reach an agreement with the mediator's help. But you and your spouse will usually split the total bill, which will almost always be much less than when each of you has to hire a lawyer to represent you in a contested divorce.
Even if you find that you need an attorney's help with your Florida divorce, it might help to know that hiring a lawyer isn't necessarily an all-or-nothing proposition. Some lawyers may agree to work with you on a consulting or as-needed basis (sometimes called "unbundled legal services"). For instance, you could hire a lawyer to:
Limited representation certainly is less costly than "full-scope" representation (when your attorney handles all of the legal matters throughout the divorce process). But of course, it isn't free. And it will leave you to handle the rest of your divorce on your own. Still, if you're willing and able to shoulder some of the legal burden and get advice or assistance only on the most challenging matters, limited representation can save you money while also protecting your rights.
Not all family lawyers are willing to provide consulting or limited representation, but it's worth speaking with a few attorneys to see if this is might work in your case.
Once you've agreed with your spouse about the issues in your case, you'll need to get the proper forms before following the steps to file for divorce in Florida. You can download the forms and instructions for simplified dissolution and regular dissolution of marriage, as well as the other supporting documents that you might need, on the Florida State Courts Self-Help Center. You can also contact the Florida court clerk's office in the county where you'll be filing your papers to find out the local filing fee, get paper copies of forms, and get answers to other questions about court procedures.
If you have a settlement agreement but aren't up to tracking down and filling out all of the forms, you also have the option of filing for divorce online with an inexpensive service that will provide you with the proper completed forms and basically walk you through the process. Some of these services will also handle the actual filing process, for an additional fee.