Getting a divorce can be an emotionally taxing and stressful procedure. Filing for a divorce in Tampa--provided you will not be dealing with custody of children or divvying up assets--can be executed without the help of an attorney. The Hillsborough County court that deals with Tampa divorces even makes it easy to file without an attorney with the use of an online document creator. Find out what you need to do to get this difficult time behind you and begin the next stage of your life.
Establish residency. To file for a divorce anywhere in Florida, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months. Visit the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse, 800 E. Twiggs Street. You can prove your residency by showing you or your spouse's Florida driver's license to the family court judge to whom your case is asigned, as long as the date of issuance is six months prior to the date you filed the petition for divorce. You can also use a Florida voter registration card or a valid Florida state identification card. If you do not have any of these documents, you can file a sworn and notarized statement with the court, called a Certificate of Corroborating Witness, signed by someone who knows you who can attest to your six months of residency in the state.
File a petition at the family law department on the first floor of the first floor of the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse. If you are not using a lawyer, the court provides an online tool to help you prepare documents that look much like those an attorney would draft for you at www.hillsclerk.com. You will need to complete an unsigned, anonymous questionnaire that will be filed with the clerk of the court. The questionnaire will be kept in a separate file from your divorce petition to be distributed to researchers from Florida State University Center for Marriage and Family.
If you do not have any children under the age of 18 and your spouse does not deny your claim via your divorce petition that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the family court judge to whom your case is assigned should dissolve the marriage after the first hearing, in which the only evidence that will require corroboration is your proof of residence. You should be able to represent yourself without a problem at such a hearing. If you anticipate a custody battle, a dispute over alimony or child support payments, or complicated division of assets, an attorney might be able to represent your interests better. When selecting an attorney, consider whether the attorney practices locally, how much of his practice is devoted to family law, and how quickly he responds to your phone calls.
Attend the case management conference scheduled by the family court. Divorces in Hillsborough County are different from those in other parts of Florida in that the court will immediately schedule a case management conference as soon as you file your petition for divorce. The conference will be held at the same court where you filed the petition, before a family law judge. The judge will schedule a conference about every eight weeks for the duration of your case.
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