The divorce process is never easy, but getting started can be simpler than one might think. State law establishes two different processes for dissolutions: regular and simplified. The forms for each contain instructions for how to proceed. The first step is figuring out which process is the best fit.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
This is a less expensive, less adversarial format that suits only the least complicated and least contentious of divorces. To qualify for a simplified dissolution, couples must agree on how they will distribute marital property and debt (liabilities).
Both parties must be willing to forgo the right to a trial, the right to an appeal and the right to alimony. There must also be no minor children of the marriage nor a current pregnancy. If these criteria are met, both parties must sign a petition for simplified dissolution and attend a final hearing together.
The couple’s agreement can be documented in a written marital settlement agreement, which is submitted to the court if the couple chooses. There is also the option not to submit any written agreement and to keep the agreement private.
After proving residence and paying filing fees, the divorcing couple must complete a “family court cover sheet.” Lastly, a “final judgment of simplified dissolution of marriage” will either be completed and brought into court by the divorcing parties or completed in court by a judge.
Regular Dissolution of Marriage
Like simplified dissolution, regular dissolution begins with submitting a dissolution of marriage petition in the local circuit court where either spouse resides or where both previously lived together.
There is one petition form for dissolving a marriage with children, another form for spouses with no children of the marriage and a third for dissolution with no children and no property. Unlike with a simplified dissolution, the parties are not required to have reached an agreement. .
If the spouse served with the divorce suit files an answer in agreement with the petition, a final hearing for an uncontested divorce can be set. If they answer but don’t agree, the petitioner faces a contested divorce and must file a notice for trial. If the spouse served doesn’t respond within 20 days, the divorce is uncontested and the petitioner may proceed with a motion for default and set a final hearing at which only they will appear.
A financial affidavit must be filed within 45 days of the petition being served. If there are children, parents must file a child support guidelines worksheet for the court to determine child support. A uniform child custody jurisdiction and enforcement act affidavit must also be filed, even if the spouses are in agreement about child custody.
Publicly Available Forms and Resources
Florida offers good online resources for navigating the divorce process. This includes a state courts self-help center with downloadable PDF and Word files for all Florida dissolution of marriage forms. The state court system also provides an excellent getting started page, as well as a DIY guide geared toward those without professional legal help. The full text of Florida’s dissolution statutes is published here for those who want the fine print.
All court-published forms and guides are free. Many organizations and businesses, including Florida law firms, offer further informational resources and legal document services.