Should you choose to prepare and file your own divorce paperwork (and you and your spouse have dependent or minor children), you will use Florida family law form 12.901(b)(1) Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child(ren). You will also use this form if the wife in the marriage is currently pregnant. As with all types of divorces in the state of Florida, either you or your spouse must have resided in Florida for a minimum of six months prior to the date on which you file your Petition for Dissolution. You must type the required information into the form, or print legibly in black ink. Once your Petition is complete, you will file the original with the court clerk. As the person filing the Petition for Dissolution, you become the Petitioner, and your spouse will be the respondent. Once your petition is filed, you are then required to ensure your spouse is properly notified of the Petition for Dissolution.
Serving Your Spouse
If you are aware of where your spouse currently resides, you will have him or her personally served with the Petition and other documents, through the county sheriff’s office or through a private service company. If you are unaware of your spouse’s current address and have satisfied all court requirements for attempting to locate him or her, you may be eligible to use constructive service, or service by publication. If your spouse is currently living in a state other than Florida, or outside the United States, you may also be able to serve him or her through publication, however you may only be granted limited relief; i.e., you may be able to get divorced, but may not be able to determine spousal support, child custody or child support. If you are able to have your spouse personally served, he or she then has twenty days in which to answer your petition. From that twenty-day time limit, it is likely your divorce will progress in one of the following ways:
• If your spouse chooses not to respond to your Petition for Dissolution within the stated time period, you can then file a Motion for Default. If all your paperwork is in order, the court may issue a date for your court date. You must then inform the other party of this final hearing, using a court-approved Notice of Hearing form. If your spouse still does not respond, the judge may grant you a default divorce.
• If, after receiving the Petition for Dissolution, your spouse determines that there are no areas of dispute between the two of you, you will be issued a court date. As with all of your divorce paperwork, you must notify your spouse of the date of your final hearing.
• Unfortunately, the third way your case may proceed is generally, the most common. Your spouse will contest the divorce by preparing a response to your Petition for Dissolution which disputes the specifics set forth in your original petition. The two of you will attempt to work out these differences, or, if you are both represented by an attorney, your attorneys will negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. If this is impossible, a trial date will be set and you may end up with a judge deciding all the details of your divorce and child custody. In some counties, mediation is required prior to a court date being set.
Preparing Your Own Divorce Papers
If you are handling your own divorce, you will be required to file each Petition, Answer and Counter-petition with the court clerk. You will pay a filing fee each time you file a form with the clerk; if you are unable to pay these fees, you may be able to have them waived. Speak to the court clerk to help make this determination. At the time you file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children, you will also file a number of other forms. You are required to file notice of Social Security Number as well as a Family Law Financial Affidavit, and you must certify to the court that you are in compliance with all mandatory disclosure rules. You will attach a photo ID which shows how long you have lived in the state of Florida, a child support worksheet and the following:
• Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit
• Parenting Plan (when both parties are able to agree on the detail, a notarized Parenting Plan will accompany the other documents; if no such agreement is reached, the judge will make the necessary determinations regarding time-sharing and parenting plan.)
• Both parents will be required to complete a parenting course prior to a final judgment.
Spousal support will be determined by the judge based on need; marital/nonmarital assets and liabilities will be equitably divide as well, should the parties be unable to reach an acceptable agreement. If you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues, you can file a Marital Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Child(ren) with the court clerk. This agreement must be signed and notarized; any issues you have not agreed on will be determined by a judge at your final hearing.
Getting the Help You Need from The Law Place
As you can see, filing your own divorce can be complex, time-consuming, and, in some cases, downright frustrating. You will spend a considerable amount of time going to and from the courthouse in order to file your papers. If you neglect even one small detail, the form will not be accepted and you will start over. While many people attempt to file their own divorce papers due to the cost of an attorney, in reality, when you factor in your time, it can be just as cost-effective to have an attorney from The Law Place by your side, handling all the details of your divorce. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping Florida residents obtain a divorce in the most expedient, least stressful way possible. Call The Law Place today for a comprehensive evaluation of your divorce and a clear explanation of your options.