Divorce – State FAQ – Florida
Residency requirements, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Florida prior to filing for divorce in an Florida court?
A: To obtain a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must reside 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition.
Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?
A: Yes. A final judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition for dissolution of marriage; but the court, on a showing that injustice would result from this delay, may enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date.
Q: May the party filing the divorce obtain attorney fees and temporary support from the other party in appropriate situations?
A: In every proceeding for dissolution of the marriage, a party may claim alimony and suit money in the petition or by motion, and if the petition is well founded, the court shall allow a reasonable sum therefor.
Grounds for Divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Florida. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Florida?
A: No judgment of dissolution of marriage shall be granted unless one of the following grounds appear, which shall be pleaded generally:
1. The marriage is irretrievably broken.
2. Mental incapacity of one of the parties.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded. In determining a proper award of alimony or maintenance, the court shall consider all relevant factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Florida is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. The court begins with the assumption that property should be equally divided, unless there is a justification for unequal division.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: The court has wide discretion to determine what is best for the child(ren). The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. The court may order “sole parental responsibility,” with or without visitation rights, to one parent when it is in the best interests of the minor child. The court may order rotating custody if the court finds that rotating custody will be in the best interest of the child.
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: The Florida child support guideline amount presumptively establishes the amount the court shall order as child support in an initial proceeding for such support or in a proceeding for modification of an existing order for such support. The court may adjust the minimum child support award, or either or both parents’ share of the minimum child support award, based upon any consideration in order to achieve an equitable result.