Divorce FAQs

Divorce can be a complex process that poses many obstacles as well as important options. The following frequently asked questions (FAQs) will help you begin to understand the challenges and choices but are NOT intended to be a substitute for legal advice.


Q: What grounds, if any, are needed to get a divorce in Florida?
A: In the State of Florida, one spouse does not have to specific grounds for a divorce. Florida has "no fault" divorce, making it unnecessary to prove cruelty, adultery, or abandonment to obtain a divorce. The typical grounds are “irreconcilable differences” with your spouse.

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Q: What is a no fault divorce?
A: Traditionally, divorce was granted on the basis of some marital misconduct such as adultery or physical abuse. In these cases the "guilty" spouse was punished by getting a smaller share of the couple's property or being denied custody of their children while the "innocent" spouse was rewarded for being faithful to the vows of marriage. In a no fault divorce, however, both parties agree that there is no "fault" involved in the grounds for divorce. In fact, any misconduct is irrelevant to the divorce proceedings. A marriage can be terminated simply because the couple agrees that it is no longer salvageable.

Please note that states' laws differ on the issue of fault or no fault divorce. Among the 50 states, 15 provide no fault divorce as their residents' only choice; residents of other states may pursue fault based or no fault divorce. Florida is a no-fault divorce state.

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Q: How long must I be a resident of Florida to get a divorce?
A: You or your spouse (i.e., one of the parties to the marriage) must have been a resident of Florida for six (6) months immediately preceding the filing of the divorce.

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Q: What is a legal separation?
A: A legal separation can involve a court order declaring that a couple is no longer living together, and that all the issues concerning the marriage have been resolved, such as issues related to children and distribution of property. It does not terminate the marriage or legal status of the couple as married. The spouses are not free to remarry.

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Q: How does my spouse learn about the divorce?
A: After the petition for divorce is filed, the spouse must receive proper notification called “service of process.” There are several ways to accomplish this. A process server may deliver a copy of the petition to the spouse. Another way is to have the spouse sign a document called an "Acceptance of Service". If the spouse is unavailable, after exhausting other service options, the spouse may be served by “Publication.” The Acceptance of Service acknowledges receipt of the petition and eliminates the requirement of having someone officially hand the papers to the spouse.

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Q: What does "uncontested" divorce mean?
A: An "uncontested" divorce is when both spouses agree to all aspects of custody, visitation, support, division of property, debt payment and attorney's fees. If one spouse disputes any of these matters and an agreement is not eventually reached, a trial will be necessary.

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Q: When is the divorce final?
A: A divorce is final on the date the Judgment of Dissolution is signed by the Judge. For uncontested divorces, this can take two to three months, depending on the level of cooperation of your spouse and the court’s docket.

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Q: Will I be required to take a parenting class?
A: Yes, all parties to dissolution actions involving minor children must take a parenting education class unless excused by the judge.

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Q: How is Child Support determined?
A: The parent who is awarded primary residential custody will also be awarded child support by the court. Child support is determined by statute in the State of Florida. Certain demographic factors are entered into an equation to determine the amount of child support. This statutory figure may be modified by mutual agreement of the parties.

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Q: What Is Mediation?
A: Mediation is a process during which persons who are involved in a family law matter have a conference with a neutral third party who is referred to as a mediator. A mediator is usually an attorney. If the parties are represented by attorneys, the parties and their attorneys attend the mediation session. The parties do not have to be represented by an attorney to participate in mediation. If one party is represented, and the other party is not represented by an attorney, the case may still be referred to mediation. During the mediation session, the parties discuss the case and attempt to resolve the case without going to trial. Many family law cases are resolved in mediation. If the case is not resolved in mediation, the case may be resolved by going to trial.

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Q: May the provisions in a divorce be changed afterwards?
A: They cannot be changed unless there is a provision in the separation agreement to do so, unless one of the parties commits fraud, or to correct mistakes in drafting. However, there is a provision in the law to amend spousal or child support based upon a change of circumstances.

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Q: How is property divided in a divorce?
A: Courts divide property between spouses using a concept known as Equitable Distribution.

Keep in mind, equitable does not mean equal. The goal is to award each spouse a percentage of the total value of the assets. States using the equitable distribution system consider all the assets and earnings accumulated during marriage to be marital property and divide them fairly at divorce. Assets owned prior to marriage or inherited during marriage are typically treated as non-marital property and not subject to equitable distribution.

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Q: What is alimony?
A: Alimony (or maintenance or spousal support) can be awarded for an indefinite or definite period of time. Generally, courts consider the standard of living of the parties that was established during marriage, the circumstances of the case and of the parties, whether the party who is getting the award lacks sufficient property and income to provide for his/her reasonable needs and whether the party paying the alimony has sufficient property and income to provide for the other's reasonable needs. Some courts may consider the fault of the parties when determining support.

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Q: Should I Try To Save My Marriage?
A: This is a question that only the parties to a marriage can answer. It is the practice of LeavenLaw to suggest counseling to parties who have not yet filed for divorce. Once the petition for divorce is filed, the court may order the parties to attend counseling to attempt to resolve their differences.

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Q: Do I need to hire an attorney to file for divorce?
A: It is not required that you hire an attorney to file for divorce. In fact, you may represent yourself. However, you may be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Most divorces are not straightforward unless there are no marital assets, children or other joint issues. Given the complexity of the issues, it may be beneficial to employ the services of a professional who is knowledgeable with the law in your state and experienced in the field. By hiring an attorney, you are prepared for the unexpected and will receive competent, affordable legal advice every step of the way. More importantly, you will have assistance and advice at a very trying time in your life.

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