Florida Legal Separation Paper & Divorce Information and FAQ
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.61.021 Dissolution of marriage - Grounds
No judgment of dissolution of marriage shall be granted unless one of the following facts appears, which shall be pleaded generally:
(a) The marriage is irretrievably broken.
(b) Mental incapacity of one of the parties.
Based on the evidence at the hearing, the court shall dispose of the petition for dissolution of marriage when the petition is based on the allegation that the marriage is irretrievably broken as follows:
(a) If there is no minor child of the marriage and if the responding party does not deny that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of the marriage if the court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
(b) When there is a minor child of the marriage, or when the responding party denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may:
1. Order either or both parties to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi, or any other person deemed qualified by the court and acceptable to the party or parties; or
2. Continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed 3 months, to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation; or
3. Take such other action as may be in the best interest of the parties and the minor child of the marriage.
A judgment of dissolution of marriage shall result in each spouse having the status of being single and unmarried. No judgment of dissolution of marriage renders the child of the marriage a child born out of wedlock. 61.052
Waiting Period No final judgment of dissolution of marriage may 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. 61.19 Dissolution Questionaire Upon filing for dissolution of marriage, the petitioner must complete and file with the clerk of the circuit court an unsigned anonymous informational questionnaire. For purposes of anonymity, completed questionnaires must be kept in a separate file for later distribution by the clerk to researchers from the Florida State University Center for Marriage and Family. The actual questionnaire shall be formulated by researchers from Florida State University who shall distribute them to the clerk of the circuit court in each county. 61.043
Alimony pendente lite; suit money 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. 61.071
Equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court shall set apart to each spouse that spouse's nonmarital assets and liabilities, and in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution. 61.075 Alimony In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court may grant alimony to either party, which alimony may be rehabilitative or permanent in nature. In any award of alimony, the court may order periodic payments or payments in lump sum or both. 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.
Rotating custody The court may order rotating custody if the court finds that rotating custody will be in the best interest of the child. 61.121 Custody and support of children; visitation rights In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court may at any time order either or both parents who owe a duty of support to a child to pay support in accordance with the guidelines in s. 61.30.
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 shall order "sole parental responsibility, with or without visitation rights, to the other parent when it is in the best interests of" the minor child. 61.13
Enforcement and modification of support, maintenance, or alimony agreements or orders When the parties enter into an agreement, or when a party is required by court order to make any payments for, or instead of, support, maintenance, or alimony, and the circumstances or the financial ability of either party changes or the child who is a beneficiary of an agreement or court order reaches majority after the execution of the agreement or the rendition of the order, either party may apply for an order decreasing or increasing the amount of support, maintenance, or alimony. When a court enters an order for the payment of alimony or child support or both, the court shall make a finding of the obligor's imputed or actual present ability to comply with the order. If the obligor subsequently fails to pay alimony or support and a contempt hearing is held, the original order of the court creates a presumption that the obligor has the present ability to pay the alimony or support. At the contempt hearing, the obligor shall have the burden of proof to show that he or she lacks the ability to purge himself or herself from the contempt.
Mediation of certain contested issues In any proceeding in which the issues of parental responsibility, primary residence, visitation, or support of a child are contested, the court may refer the parties to mediation. If an agreement is reached by the parties on the contested issues, a consent order incorporating the agreement shall be prepared by the mediator and submitted to the parties and their attorneys for review. Upon approval by the parties, the consent order shall be reviewed by the court and, if approved, entered. Thereafter, the consent order may be enforced in the same manner as any other court order. 61.183
Entry of judgment of dissolution of marriage, delay period No final judgment of dissolution of marriage may 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. 61.19
Parenting course authorized; fees; required attendance; contempt All parties to a dissolution of marriage proceeding with minor children or a paternity action which involves issues of parental responsibility shall be required to complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the entry by the court of a final judgment. The court may excuse a party from attending the parenting course for good cause. All parties required to complete a parenting course under this section shall begin the course as expeditiously as possible after filing for dissolution of marriage and shall file proof of compliance with the court prior to the entry of the final judgment.
All parties to a modification of a final judgment involving shared parental responsibilities, custody, or visitation may be required to complete a court-approved parenting course prior to the entry of an order modifying the final judgment. 61.21
Child support guidelines; retroactive child support The child support guideline amount presumptively establishes the amount the trier of fact 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. Each parent's percentage share of the child support need shall be determined by dividing each parent's net income by the combined net income. Each parent's actual dollar share of the child support need shall be determined by multiplying the minimum child support need by each parent's percentage share.
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.
Every petition for child support or for modification of child support shall be accompanied by an affidavit which shows the party's income, allowable deductions, and net income computed in accordance with this section. The affidavit shall be served at the same time that the petition is served.
In an initial determination of child support, whether in a paternity action, dissolution of marriage action, or petition for support during the marriage, the court has discretion to award child support retroactive to the date when the parents did not reside together in the same household with the child, not to exceed a period of 24 months preceding the filing of the petition. 61.30
Appointment of guardian ad litem In an action for dissolution of marriage, modification, parental responsibility, custody, or visitation, if the court finds it is in the best interest of the child, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to act as next friend of the child, investigator or evaluator, not as attorney or advocate. 61.401 A guardian ad litem shall have the powers, privileges, and responsibilities to the extent necessary to advance the best interest of the child, including, but not limited to, investigating the allegations of the pleadings affecting the child, and, after proper notice to interested parties to the litigation and subject to conditions set by the court, may interview the child. 61.403