If you have assets to protect or children under age 18, you must seek legal counsel before filing for divorce. However, if you and your spouse are splitting amicably and you're not fighting over property or kids, you may be able to file for divorce without an attorney. You must meet the State of Florida's criteria for a "do-it-yourself divorce," also known as a "simplified dissolution." If you do, the process is relatively streamlined, consisting of signing a joint petition and appearing in court together to finalize the divorce.
Make sure you meet the grounds for a simplified divorce. You and/or your spouse must have lived in Florida for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. Your marriage must be irrevocably broken, or you or your spouse must have been mental incapacitated for three years prior to filing. In addition, you must not have any natural or adopted children under age 18, nor can you and your spouse be expecting a new child at the time of filing.
Come to an agreement with your spouse on all arrangements and establish that the divorce is uncontested. Discuss with your spouse how all of your property will be distributed. Eliminate the idea of alimony. Any complicating issues or bones of contention usually become more than most people can handle without legal representation. If you and your spouse aren't in lockstep, you will end up needing to hire an attorney anyway, as your petition for divorce may be disqualified if your spouse raises any objections at the divorce hearing.
Sign a joint petition with your spouse for a dissolution of marriage. You can pick up the forms from the county clerk's office, download the petition from Florida State Courts website, or you can file divorce papers online if you prefer to use a company that gives you a questionnaire and completes the forms for you. In addition to the petition, you may have file financial affidavits, notices of change in marital status to the Social Security Administration and other settlement agreements. All necessary forms are available at the county clerk's office or from the Florida State Courts website.
File all of the forms with the clerk of the circuit court in your county and pay any related fees. If you cannot afford the fees, you can apply to have them waived. When all of your paperwork has been accepted, the clerk will provide you with a hearing date.
Appear with your spouse at the court hearing. Before arriving, fill out a Final Judgment of Simplified Dissolution of Marriage document — available from the clerk's office — and bring this document with you. If everything's in order and your spouse doesn't contest the divorce in front of the judge, the dissolution will be granted that day.
Items you will need
- Proof of Florida residency (voter registration card, official Florida ID or driver's license or affidavit)
- Simplified dissolution petition
- By agreeing to a simplified dissolution, both you and your spouse waive your rights to a full trial or an appeal of the dissolution.