Pensacola Divorce Attorney
No one will want to tell you this when you marry, but sometimes things do not work out and divorce is the best option. It is a harsh reality, but it is true in many cases.
Under Florida Statute 61.021, one person of a married couple must have lived in the state for a minimum of six months before either party can file for divorce. Additionally, you need to file paperwork in the county where one of you lives, works, or operates a business.
Florida is a no-fault state, which means that you don’t have to prove a reason you should be allowed to divorce. The marriage only needs to be irretrievably broken, meaning that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. The mental incapacitation of one spouse for a minimum of three years is another valid reason to file for divorce. Although courts don’t consider issues such as abuse, adultery, or abandonment when granting the divorce, these things can play into decisions about alimony, child support, and custody.
Complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Florida
If you’re the party filing for divorce, you need to complete a form called Petition for Dissolution of Marriage as the petitioner. The spouse receiving and answering questions on the form is called the respondent. Florida publishes four types of dissolution forms. You must meet certain criteria to qualify for each type of dissolution. These include the following for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage:
- You, your spouse, or both of you have lived in Florida for a minimum of six months
- You both agree that you have reached irreconcilable differences and that it’s not possible to save the marriage
- The wife of the union is not currently pregnant and the two of you have no minor children together
- Neither the husband or wife seeks alimony from the other party
- The two of you have previously worked out how to divide assets and liabilities
- You both waive your right to a family court trial and appeal
- Neither spouse desires the other to release financial information beyond what each has listed in the initial financial affidavit
- You are both willing to attend the final hearing at the same time
- You both agree to sign the petition at the county clerk’s office, although not necessarily at the same time
Either you or your spouse must complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children if the wife is pregnant or the two of you have minor children together. Another option is Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Property but No Minor or Dependent Children. You need to file this petition in lieu of the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in these circumstances:
- One of the spouses seeks alimony from the other
- You and your spouse don’t agree about property division, debts, and other financial matters and need a judge to rule on them
- One or both of you would like to retain the right to reconsider any matters or appeal decisions made by a judge
- You or your spouse would like to obtain documents or ask additional questions about the other party’s assets, income, debt, or expenses prior to a settlement or trial
You or your spouse may file a fourth type of form, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with No Dependent or Minor Children or Property, if the two of you have no marital debt or assets to consider, the wife is not pregnant, and you have no minor children together.
No matter which type of form you complete, you and your spouse must list any issue you want the family court to address. These could include alimony, child support, child custody, and asset, debt, and property division.
Filing and Serving Your Florida Marriage Dissolution Forms
Once you complete the appropriate form, you need to have it notarized and present it to a circuit court clerk at the county courthouse. After paying a filing fee, the clerk will stamp your paperwork with a time and date as well as a notation the court has filed your dissolution paperwork. You should then make two copies, one to serve on your spouse and one for your own records.
You can serve the paperwork on your spouse in one of several ways. The first is to simply hand-deliver it or present it to his or her attorney. In this case, your spouse would need to sign a form called Answer and Waiver of Service and have it notarized. If you know where your spouse lives, you can arrange for the county sheriff or a private process server to deliver the forms. The server will present your spouse with a paper to sign that acknowledges receipt of the dissolution petition. In the event you’re unable to locate your spouse, you need to publish a service notice in the local newspaper for 30 days.
Getting a Divorce While Pregnant in Florida
As we touched on earlier, when the wife is pregnant and wants to get a divorce in Florida, she would file the same form as if she had minor children, which is form 12.901(b)(1) – Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child/children. In the initial pleading, the wife acknowledges that she is expecting a child.
Getting a divorce while pregnant in Florida adds a layer of complexity to the processes, because most of the time, divorces involving pregnancies are not finalized until after the baby is born. In this type of situation, it is presumed that the husband is the biological father of the baby, and as such, child support and custody/timesharing issues will need to be addressed after the birth of the child.
There are, of course, situations in which the husband might not be the biological father of a child that his wife is pregnant with; and in such cases, it may be possible for a pregnant woman to get divorced in Florida before the baby is born. But the only way that a divorce might be granted under these circumstances is if the true biological father establishes legal paternity and is willing to sign an affidavit assuming financial responsibility for the child.
Disclosing Financial Information to the Other Spouse
Florida law requires that the respondent complete and sign a financial affidavit within 45 days of receiving dissolution forms. The petitioner must provide the same information. This typically includes details such as:
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Personal financial statements
- Personal income, including wages, self-employment, investment income, and any other source of income
- Tax returns
If a judge decides on financial matters in your divorce, he or she will use this information to determine division of property, assets, and debts, and well as child support and alimony.
Secure a Florida Family Law Attorney as Early in the Process as Possible
Some people try to save money by not hiring a lawyer in their divorce. Unfortunately, this can be a costly decision in the future. You may agree to issues now that you don’t completely understand and then must abide by that decision for years. Florida divorce law can get complex, even in the most amicable of divorces.
Common Mistakes People Make During a Florida Divorce
Mistake #1 Hiding Assets
From time to time, one spouse thinks they can hide assets that would normally be subject to an equitable division. When this happens or you suspect it has happened, your attorney can bring in a forensic specialist to track hidden assets. If a cash infusion to one side is put on hold, or assets are hidden offshore, or put in another name, the various business holdings will be identified and valued. In her decades as a family lawyer, attorney Crystal Collins Spencer has seen how creative some individuals can be when they believe they can get away with hiding marital assets.
Mistake #2 Using Children as Pawns
The court frowns on using children as part of a negotiating ploy. Both parents, ideally, should put the welfare of their children first and foremost; and generally, children do best with both parents in their lives – assuming both parents are mentally stable. Using a child as leverage in order to gain more financially in a divorce will only serve to hurt your case. In highly contentious divorce cases, the Florida courts may bring in a guardian ad litem to make sure the rights of the children are protected.
Mistake #3 Trying to Fool the Judge
It happens every day. One party who is divorcing will decide it is time to run up the credit cards – buy that big boat or take a nice vacation while they still have access to assets. This is a mistake. In the eyes of the court, you will be determined to be the irresponsible party and the assets used for a fun vacation may eventually come out of your side during the division of property.
We encourage you to protect your interests and those of your children by contacting the office of Crystal Collins Spencer, Attorney at Law, for a free and confidential review of your divorce case. Ms. Spencer has over 30 years of experience representing both petitioners and respondents in divorce cases. We have offices in Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola, and Sandestin for your convenience. We also focus on helping stay at home moms. Call us now!