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Divorce (Dissolution) In Florida

In Florida, a divorce is called a dissolution. Florida is a no-fault state, requiring only that the parties show that their marriage is irretrievably broken. There is no legal separation in Florida. Florida also does not recognize common law marriage.

In order to obtain a dissolution in Florida, as in other states, there must be jurisdiction over the parties to hear the matter. Jurisdiction means that the court has the power to hear and make binding decisions concerning the issues. For example, while it is possible to obtain a divorce against a spouse located in another state, without that spouses consent or jurisdiction over property located in the other state, the court cannot make a decision concerning that property. Likewise, if the parties do not file the required Financial Affidavits, the court may have the power to dissolve the marriage, but will not be able to make a binding decision concerning the property.

If a spouse living in Florida does not know where the other spouse lives and cannot locate the spouse after using reasonable diligence, the spouse may obtain a divorce by publication whereby the fact of the divorce is listed in a publication for a required number of weeks in an attempt to give notice to the other spouse. If the other spouse does not respond or even obtain the notice, the dissolution can be obtained without that spouses consent or even knowledge.

To file for dissolution, one of the parties will file a petition for dissolution, which gives the other party twenty days to answer the petition. The petition will list the jurisdictional requirements, one of which is that the filing party has lived in Florida for over six months. With the petition, the party will include a financial affidavit listing all assets and liabilities. If the party earns over $50,000 per year, a more detailed disclosure of assets and liabilities is required. A Notice of Social Security Number and, at times, a Non-Military affidavit will be required.

If there are minor children of the marriage, a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act Affidavit must be filed.

If the parties can agree to a settlement of the issues surrounding the dissolution, whether on their own, through negotiation between the attorneys, or through court ordered mediation or arbitration, they will create a binding Settlement Agreement. This Agreement will list all of the assets to which each party is entitled, as well as child custody and other issues.

Florida is not a community property state. It is an equitable distribution state meaning that the court will decide property issues based on what is fair. While the court will start with the presumption that the assets should be split equally, one of the parties may prove that they are entitled to certain assets alone or that they are entitled to special equity in a particular asset or assets, such as where one spouse owned an investment property before the marriage, kept it in his or her own name during the marriage, and paid for the maintenance of the property with his or her own funds.

If the parties are unable to agree on a settlement of outstanding issues, the case can go to trial, though the Florida courts disfavor this and have a policy preferring settlement without excessive judicial intervention.

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Florida requires an equitable distribution of the marital property (what is fair, not necessarily equal). Each spouse keeps the property and debts that belonged to them before the marriage. Each spouse also keeps any property received as a gift or inheritance, or any property that the spouses agree to divide in a written agreement. Any property that was acquired before the spouses married or that was received as a gift or inheritance is not considered marital property. If the spouses cannot come to an agreement, a court will divide the property and the debt.
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