Divorce in Florida: Simplified, Contested, or Uncontested

There are different types of divorce under Florida law: a simplified dissolution of marriage, and a regular dissolution of marriage (which may be contested or uncontested), both of which are handled by the Florida circuit courts. To be eligible to obtain either type of divorce, the parties must establish that they are married, one spouse has resided in Florida for at least six months prior to filing for divorce, and the marriage is irretrievably broken. Moreover, in simplified and uncontested regular divorce proceedings, spouses must agree on all details, including, without limitation, division of money and assets, division of debt and liabilities, child custody, parenting arrangements, child support, division of personal items, and entitlement to tax exemptions.

Generally, spouses seeking a simplified divorce in Florida must meet the following criteria: (1) both spouses agree the marriage is irretrievably broken; (2) there are no minor children from the marriage; (3) the wife is not pregnant at the time of filing; (4) both spouses complete a financial affidavit, which is a written affirmation regarding property and finances, unless properly waived by the parties; (5) both spouses complete a property settlement agreement that settles all property issues (even if the spouses do not own property); and (6) both spouses appear at the final hearing, unless a formal hearing is properly waived by both parties. This option appeals to couples who wish to cordially end their marriage and are willing to cooperate with one another to that end.

A contested divorce is when the spouses are unable to mutually agree on the terms of their divorce and instead have the judge make the final determination. By using the court system to decide the terms of the divorce, the parties’ disagreements do not prevent them from legally ending their marriage.

Commonly contested issues in a divorce include:

  • The value and distribution of marital assets

  • Alimony

  • Child custody and visitation

  • Child support

However, there are two major disadvantages to contested divorces. First, contested divorces take more time and money because they must be litigated through the court system. Second, contested divorces are often contentious and the court process can oftentimes increase tensions between the parties.

In an uncontested regular dissolution of marriage, only one spouse (the petitioner) files for divorce against the other spouse (the respondent). Once served with the divorce petition, the respondent spouse must file a written answer. Like a simplified divorce, in an uncontested regular divorce, the spouses must execute a marital settlement agreement resolving all issues of marital property, marital debts, and minor children from the marriage. The spouses must also complete a financial affidavit within 45 days of service of the divorce petition. If there are minor children, an uncontested regular divorce will also include a detailed parenting plan. This type of divorce is extremely beneficial when properly implemented, because the entire case is settled prior to filing the petition with the court; thus, such cases quickly proceed to finality, are much less complicated, and much more cost effective.

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