Divorce In Florida Guide: Florida Family Law


Florida is commonly referred to as a no-fault divorce state. Therefore, you don’t need to prove adultery or reasons for a divorce. See Florida divorce law 61.052. All Florida law requires is there be irreconcilable differences that leave a marriage irretrievably broken to obtain a divorce. See Ryan v. Ryan Generally, the requirements to file for divorce in Florida are minimal, but navigating the legal process can be difficult. A divorce case can have a long-lasting effect on your finances and the relationship you have with your children. It is recommended that you don’t go through the divorce process alone and hire a skilled Tampa divorce lawyer to assist.

For many, filing for divorce in Florida can sometimes be a long and tedious process. Florida’s divorce law has a complex web of statutes that must be successfully navigated. However, a divorce case in Florida can be summed up in many ways using the PEACE acronym. The PEACE acronym represents all significant parts of a typical divorce in Florida and can help guide you through the process. Each part of the PEACE acronym is important, so contact a divorce law firm in Tampa for assistance if you need assistance.

P: Parenting Plan

Ideally, the parents will reach an agreement amongst themselves on how to address child custody. If an agreement is reached, the judge will typically ratify the terms of the agreement. If parents cannot agree, the judge will decide the outcome based on the children’s best interests. Florida’s law does not give any preference to mothers or fathers when determining parental responsibility in child custody matters. Instead, the final judgment for the custody arrangement will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of each case. See Williams v. Williams.

E: Equitable Distribution

In a Florida divorce case, marital assets and liabilities are subject to equitable distribution. Generally, the court will start with the premise of dividing marital debts and assets 50/50. The law requires that a court equally distribute a marital asset unless a “legally sufficient justification for an unequal distribution is given based on the relevant statutory factors.” See Hitchcock v. Hitchcock. For advice on how to unequally divide marital assets, contact a Tampa divorce attorney to schedule a consultation. Obtaining an unequal distribution of a marital asset in Florida can be difficult without legal counsel.

A: Alimony

Alimony, also frequently referred to as spousal support, is payment from one ex-spouse to the other. The fundamental principle guiding an award of alimony is the disparity of a spouse’s financial resources compared to the other spouse in the party. Under Florida divorce laws, a judge can order five types of alimony as part of a divorce. The forms of alimony are; temporary, bridge the gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational, and permanent alimony. See Florida divorce law 61.08. A judge may award any combination of these types of alimony. Further, alimony payments can be made periodically or as a lump sum.

C: Child Support

Florida courts will defer to the Florida Child Support Guidelines in determining parental responsibility for child support payments. The Guidelines outline how much child support will be required by each parent based on their net income, the number of dependent children involved, and the custody arrangement. The judge will strictly follow the Florida Child Support Guidelines in a Florida divorce case. However, the court does have some discretion to deviate from the guidelines when it is appropriate to do so.

Check out our deep dive on Child Support in Florida for more information.

E: Everything Else

Do you want your name changed? Do you need to file bankruptcy in addition to divorce? There may be parts of your family law case that you didn’t know existed. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer for a comprehensive strategy on how to handle your case best. If you need assistance with a divorce proceeding in Florida, contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A., to schedule your free consultation with a divorce lawyer in Tampa.

Legal Separation in Florida

No one enters into a marriage with the expectation that it will end. However, people and circumstances change over time, and a once-thriving marriage may find itself in turmoil. When this occurs, couples often decide to pursue separation before filing for divorce. Legal separation in Florida occurs when a married couple ends cohabitation and lives separately for a period of time. Under Florida divorce laws, separation alone may not affect either spouse’s marital status or property rights. See Hollister v. Hollister.

A couple’s assets acquired after separation can still be considered marital property. Therefore, the property would be subject to equitable distribution in divorce unless there is a written agreement to the contrary. The written separation agreement can act as a cut-off date for determining whether assets and liabilities are marital or separate. Without a written agreement, assets and liabilities incurred after separation will be presumed to be marital prior to divorce.

With a valid agreement, property acquired by either spouse during separation may not have to be divided in a divorce. Therefore, if a couple is separated, they should consider entering into a post-nuptial agreement. The agreement can help provide clarity for the parties and avoid costly litigation in court.

Common-Law Marriage in Florida

Common-law marriage in Florida is a union that has never been formally registered with the State. Therefore, there was no official ceremony or marriage certificate issued. Instead, the parties simply consent, coupled with some outwardly visible action, such as living together. Essentially, the couple would represent themselves out to be married and act as if they are married. Living together is not a requirement of common law marriage in Florida. However, habitation status can be a significant piece of evidence.

The laws treat a valid common law marriage in Florida as any other legal marriage. The parties are entitled to all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage. Additionally, the dissolution process would generally be the same as any other dissolution of marriage in Florida. Further, even Alimony is available in a common-law divorce if the court’s final judgment sees it as appropriate under the circumstances.

Florida permitted common-law marriage until 1968 when it enacted Florida Statute 741.211. The statute abolishes a common law marriage in Florida entered into after January 1, 1968. However, Florida will still recognize a common law marriage that was legally created in another state. Marriages formed in other states are entitled to the full faith and credit under the United States Constitution.

Thus, under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, all states must recognize a valid common law marriage entered into in another state. The validity of the marriage is to be determined by the laws of the jurisdiction where the marriage took place.

Divorce When Your Spouse Lives Outside Florida

Establishing residency is typically a straightforward process that is easily accomplished. Florida requires at least one spouse to be a resident for at least six months immediately preceding the divorce filing. The resident requesting spouse can prove residency with a valid Florida driver’s license, Florida ID, or Florida voter registration card. An affidavit or testimony from a corroborating witness may be used if neither of these is available.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction for Divorce in Florida

Residing in Florida for six months gives the state jurisdiction (authority) over the subject matter of the case. See Florida Divorce Law 61.021. However, it does not necessarily give Florida jurisdiction over the people involved in the case. Satisfying the residency requirement only gives Florida authority to grant the divorce. It does not give Florida authority over all parties involved.

For instance, if the wife living in Georgia relocates to Florida seeking a divorce, Florida may not have jurisdiction over the husband even if the wife lived in Florida for the six months preceding the filing of the divorce petition. Regardless of the economic circumstances or his financial ability, without jurisdiction over the husband, Florida cannot require him to pay financial support (alimony) or distribute marital assets in the divorce.

Personal Jurisdiction for Divorce

For Florida to have jurisdiction over a spouse living in another state, one of the following must occur:

  • The couple maintained a home in Florida as husband and wife (See Florida Statute 48.193); or
  • The spouse living outside of Florida is personally served the divorce petition within Florida; or
  • The spouse living outside of Florida waives his/ her right to contest jurisdiction. For instance, if the spouse responds to the divorce petition without raising the issue of jurisdiction in the initial response, the spouse will subject himself/ herself to the jurisdiction of the court automatically and cannot challenge jurisdiction at a later time.

How To Divorce in Florida When You Can’t Find Your Spouse

Florida’s state law requires notice of any action that will affect a person’s legal rights, including a divorce case. Notice means you inform the opposing party of the actions that you are taking in court. Notice can be an issue if you need to file a divorce and don’t know where your spouse is. Generally, Florida divorce law will require you to locate and personally serve the opposing with the divorce petition. Thus, if you cannot find your spouse, you will need to take other steps to provide proper notice. Service/ notice can be a complex issue with many procedural requirements. Therefore, it is best to retain a divorce attorney to assist with these matters if you need assistance.

Constructive service can be used to get a divorce when you can’t find your spouse. Constructive service means “serving” in a non-traditional way. When constructive service is involved, a court can grant a dissolution of marriage (divorce) but cannot establish paternity, award child support, or alimony.

Additionally, the service may affect the court’s ability to settle marital assets and debt claims. Therefore, you should contact a divorce lawyer to inquire whether serving via constructive service is appropriate for your case. If constructive service is not feasible, a divorce lawyer should provide other solutions for the case.

The Diligent Search & Inquiry

Generally, the first step is to complete a diligent search and inquiry to attempt to find your spouse. A good divorce attorney can help you with an investigation to find your spouse. In many circumstances, an investigation by a divorce lawyer will result in a successful location of the opposing party.

Should the opposing party not be located, the court will allow for other ways to notice the opposing party. However, the diligent search and inquiry must have been properly done beforehand. See Hobe Sound v. First Union. The diligent search must be done in compliance with Florida Statutes 49.011.

Publication in a Newspaper

If you cannot locate the opposing party, publication in a newspaper may be a viable solution. The publication advising of the divorce case will need to run in a local newspaper for four consecutive weeks. Also, the newspaper will likely charge a fee for the publication. Each case is different, but newspaper publication fees are usually around $200. The opposing party will have thirty days from the publication to respond and challenge the case.

Shop Around For a Tampa Divorce Attorney

Going through a divorce can be a highly stressful and emotional experience. You need a trusted legal advocate to help you achieve a fair outcome. Choosing an experienced, trustworthy divorce attorney is the single best step you can take to help make your divorce as smooth as possible.

Unfortunately, not all divorce attorneys are created equal. Top divorce attorneys in Tampa are known for their superb communication skills, clearly outlined fees, and impressive track records of success. Separating the five-star attorneys from inexperienced or unresponsive ones is essential to securing a positive outcome in your case.

Knowing how to spot the signs of a poorly performing attorney is just as important as knowing the qualities of a good divorce attorney in Florida. If you notice one or more of the issues below, you may want to consider your options more carefully:

  • Unresponsive: Is consistently late arriving at your meetings or responding to your calls and emails
  • Evasive: Fails to provide you with a written estimate, list of policies, or a summary of what is covered in their fee structure
  • A Bad Reputation: Poor online reviews or a bad industry reputation are red flags that you should not ignore
  • Uneducated: Attorneys who lack the education or experience to handle a divorce case are a recipe for disaster
  • Dismissive: Lawyers who are unwilling to answer your questions, provide legal advice, or who do not listen to you are poor choices

Consult a 5-Star Trusted Divorce Law Firm in Tampa

We understand how stressful a divorce can be and are here to help. At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., we want to provide solutions, not add to your burden with overpriced legal fees. We invite you to call us today to schedule a free consultation with an attorney at our firm. During your consultation, you will discover why so many people in the Tampa Bay Area turn to us for help with their divorce.

Whether a couple mutually agrees to the terms of a divorce or is engaged in a fierce battle for their property and child custody rights, Florida Law Advisers, P.A., can help. Call us today at (800) 990-7763 or fill out the “free case review” form on our website for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning that all marital property is subject to a 50/50 divide unless there are reasons why an equal split would be inequitable (unfair).

Common-law marriage is a union that has never been formally registered with the State. Therefore, there was no official ceremony or marriage certificate issued. Instead, the parties simply consent, coupled with some outwardly visible action, such as living together.

Florida permitted common-law marriage until 1968 when it enacted Florida Statute 741.211. The statute abolishes a common law marriage in Florida entered into after January 1, 1968. However, Florida will still recognize a common law marriage that was legally created in another state.

Yes, you can still obtain a divorce in Florida if you do not know where your spouse is. If you are unable to serve your spouse personally, you may be able to serve by publication (newspaper) instead.

No, Florida does not require your spouse to sign the divorce papers. However, if you are unable to serve your spouse with the divorce papers personally, you may need to do service by publication.

Yes, Florida does allow for service by publication (newspaper). However, the publication is the last resort for service under Florida’s state law. Therefore, you will have to attempt to locate and serve your spouse before proceeding with service by publication.

Since Florida is considered a no-fault divorce state, adultery is usually irrelevant to the case. However, adultery can become a factor if there is child support or custody dispute as part of the dissolution of marriage. Additionally, money spent on an extramarital affair can be accounted for during property division.

Florida is a no-fault state. Therefore, you won’t have to provide evidence of adultery or abuse for a divorce. The state’s law only requires you to allege the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Yes, an uncontested divorce should be less expensive than a traditional or contested divorce with litigation. Some law firms may even offer a flat-rate attorney’s fee rather than charge by the hour for a simplified marital settlement agreement.

Florida divorce law allows for the opportunity to request alimony. The law applies a two-part test to determine if it is appropriate for the court to grant alimony. First, you must present evidence that you need to seek alimony. Secondly, you must show that the other spouse has the financial resources to pay alimony.

Florida is a no-fault state; therefore, you won’t have to provide evidence of adultery or abuse for a divorce. State law only requires you to allege the marriage is irretrievably broken.

When a divorce is filed, the court will order an Equitable Distribution of marital assets and liabilities, including the house. Generally, the court will divide the marital assets and liabilities 50/50 between the couple unless there are factors that would make an equal split inequitable.

At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., we are committed to solving your divorce, bankruptcy, and immigration matters. We are a full-service law firm serving clients in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Orlando, and throughout Central Florida.