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FAQs

Below you will find answers to our most frequently asked questions,
and how to get personalized help if you need it.

Questions About the Divorce Process

  • Q.Am I the Petitioner or the Respondent?

    A.If you are the one asking for a divorce, in other words, if you are the one who wants to file for divorce, then you are the Petitioner.

    If you are have been served divorce papers, in other words, if your spouse filed for divorce, then you are the Respondent.

  • Q.What if my spouse does not live in Florida?

    A.Florida requires that at least one person has lived in the state of Florida for at least 6 months prior to filing for divorce in the state. If you live in Florida, but your spouse lives out of state, you must have your spouse served inside the state of Florida for the court to have personal jurisdiction over your spouse in your divorce case.

    For more information on the requirement of personal jurisdiction read this article.

  • Q.How much are the filing fees for divorce?

    A.To file for divorce in most counties, you can expect to pay about $420, however each county sets their own rates. Please click here to find the filing fee links for each county where you will find the current filing fee in your county.

  • Q.I need an interpreter for the hearing – what should I do?

    A.If you need a foreign language interpreter to fully participate in your hearing, contact your county courthouse about translation services. If your county does not offer interpreters, it is your responsibility to bring a qualified interpreter.

    If you need a sign language interpreter for your hearing, please contact the ADA Coordinator at your courthouse.

    Click here to locate ADA contact information.

  • Q.Are divorce proceedings public?

    A.Divorce proceedings are public proceedings, and the files are available at the courthouse for public review. Under certain limited circumstances, portions of the file may be sealed by order of the court.

  • Q.My spouse filed for divorce. I responded and it's been several weeks. What should I do?

    A.The petitioner is responsible to move their case to a final status. If you want to move the case forward, you may consider filing a counter-petition. You should consult with an attorney if you are confused about this.

  • Q.When does the Clerk issue a default?

    A.Proof of service must be filed and the time period for the respondent to
    answer must be completed before the Clerk can issue a default. If the respondent files an answer, no default will be issued.

  • Q.What happens if I or my spouse are not able to attend a hearing?

    A.Failure to appear at the hearing by either or both of the parties may result in dismissal of the case. If you cannot appear, you must tell the court, in writing, why you are not able to appear and ask permission to (1) not show up and (2) ask for the date to be moved to a different day and time. (File a notice of unavailability)

  • Q.Who has to go to the final hearing?

    A.If you filed for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, both the Wife and Husband must attend final hearing together.

    In uncontested divorces, the Petitioner is required to attend the final hearing. The divorce will not be granted if the Petitioner does not attend. The Respondent’s attendance depends if the answer and waiver has been signed, or a settlement agreement has been reached. When the Respondent has executed and filed an answer and waiver, the Respondent is not required to attend the final hearing.

    The Respondent should be present if a settlement could not be reached.

  • Q.How is property divided in Florida?

    A.As a general rule, property acquired during the course of the marriage is divided 50/50 regardless of whose name it’s in. Although the Courts can in an extraordinary case change the percentages. Note that a spouse could be entitled to 1/2 the value of a business including goodwill, equipment and accounts receivable etc. (Although if the business would no longer generate income if the spouse who works it walks away, then goodwill may not be a factor.)

  • Q.What assets are subject to the 50/50 split?

    A.Property acquired during the course of the marriage by one or both parties is basically subject to a 50/50 split unless there are extraordinary circumstances which require different percentages. There is usually going to be a 50/50 split even though for example one spouse worked ten hours a week while the other spouse worked forty. The acquired property will still be considered a marital asset. In general the Court is not going to start looking into how hard each party worked during the marriage to contribute, although in extreme cases the Court can consider the level of contribution.

  • Q.If I have been separated for more than 3 years, do I still need a Marital Settlement Agreement?

    A.If you want to proceed with a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage or an Uncontested Divorce, you MUST have a Marital Settlement Agreement. Otherwise, you must proceed with a Contested Divorce.

  • Q.After being served with papers, do I have to serve my Answer on the other party by the Sheriff?

    A.No. You may mail a copy of your Answer to the other party. Your original Answer (which is filed with the Clerk) should contain a Certificate of Mailing, showing the day that you mailed the Answer to the other party. Remember to keep a copy of your Answer for yourself.

  • Q.Do I still need to attend the final hearing if my spouse and I went to mediation and signed an agreement that resolves all of our issues?

    A.If you are the Petitioner, yes.  The Petitioner must always attend the final hearing or trial.

  • Q.How do I schedule a mediation with a mediator or county court mediation program?

    A.Most counties offer mediation services, however you and your spouse can choose to hire a private meditator instead.

    To qualify for county mediation programs, both parties usually must first submit a completed Financial Affidavit. Depending on the combined gross income of you and your spouse the clerk may refer you to a specific mediation program. Once your request for mediation has been processed, that mediation office will provide you with written notification of the date, time, and location of the mediation.

    If you and your spouse decide to hire a private mediator, you may research a mediator of your choice, contact them directly and proceed as they require to retain their services.

  • Q.I don’t have an attorney but the other party does – how do I set a hearing?

    A.If you don’t have an attorney, you need to contact the judge or magistrate’s office assigned to your case and request available hearing dates from the judicial assistant. You will then need to contact the attorney’s office to coordinate the date with the attorney. Once a date has been agreed upon, you will need to call the judicial assistant again to reserve the hearing date. You will then need to complete a Notice of Hearing and provide it to the clerk’s office, attorney’s office, and judicial assistant.

    Click here to learn how to file and complete a notice of hearing form.

  • Q.I need to speak to the judge or magistrate about my case – how do I contact their office?

    A.Judges and magistrates are not permitted to speak to parties about their case outside of the courtroom. If you have an issue you need addressed by the court, you must file a proper motion or request and schedule a hearing to have the Judge hear your issue.

  • Q.Where do I file my completed forms?

    A.All forms should be filed at the clerk’s office in the county of your case and a copy of the forms should be provided to the other party according to Florida Law and Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

    For detailed instructions on filing your divorce, click here to watch the instructional video tutorial.

  • Q.When is my final hearing?

    A.If you have filed for simplified dissolution of marriage with your spouse, the clerk of court will provide you with a hearing date when you go with your spouse to file your divorce documents. Hearing dates can be a few as two to four weeks out or more depending on the caseload in your county.

    If you have filed for a standard type of divorce, most cases are reviewed by clerks or case managers in the self-help department upon filing your documents. If the case is ready for a hearing, it is set on the first available docket and parties are notified by mail. If you still have issues in dispute, you will need to schedule final hearing after you and your spouse have come to a full and complete agreement on all issues.

    For instructions on how to schedule final hearing click here to watch the video tutorial.

  • Q.When can I expect my final paperwork to arrive?

    A.If you appeared at the final hearing you most likely will get your paperwork on that day. However, if you were not at the final hearing a copy will be mailed to you, a copy in the mail can take 10 – 14 days.

  • Q.When is my divorce final?

    A.Your divorce is final at the time the Judge signs the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

  • Q.What do I do if my spouse will not sign a Marital Settlement Agreement?

    A.If your spouse will not sign a Marital Settlement Agreement, you must proceed with a Contested Divorce.

  • Q.I want my kids to tell the court what they want. How can my kids speak to the Judge?

    A.Children are not allowed to attend court hearings without prior Order from the court, per Fla. Fam. L. R. P. 12.403.

  • Q.How is child support calculated in Florida?

    A.There is a formula in the statute which is known as the Child Support Guidelines. Basically the parties’ combined net income is considered along with the number of children. The statute then gives a figure for the total support needed for the children. From this it can be determined how much support a parent will pay. The living expenses of the paying parent are not in general considered except in extreme circumstances.

    To calculate child support for your case, click here to complete the child support guidelines workshop.

  • Q.Can the Courts deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?

    A.In general the Courts have the discretion to deviate upward or downward 5% and if they want to deviate more than that there needs to be legally sufficient reasons put forth by the Court. It’s relatively rare that the Courts deviate more than 5% from the guidelines, although it can be done in exceptional circumstances. One example of this may be where a child has special needs such as the need for costly medication.

    Other examples of when a deviation can occur are when a parent spends a “significant” or “substantial” period of time with the children, or conversely, when that parent does not spend much time with the children. There is also the question of whether the existence of “subsequent” children (i.e. children living with a parent who were born or adopted after the support obligation arose) is justification to deviate from the child support guidelines.

  • Q.What if my spouse does not report all of his income or is not earning as much as he/she could with regard to calculating child support and alimony?

    A.Courts can “impute” income to a spouse. What that means is that if it is shown that they are capable of making more than they earn, the Court will calculate the child support or alimony as if they made the higher amount.

    Also, if the spouse is making money under the table or otherwise not reporting all income, it will be your burden to show that this is occurring (so that they will have to pay the proper amount of child support or alimony).

  • Q.Can the Court impute income to me if I want to stay home with my small children?

    A.The Court has the authority to refrain from imputing income to a parent who needs to stay home with young children but it is still in the Court’s discretion as to whether to do this. A spouse can argue for example that there is quality day care available at a reasonable cost and that the children will do fine with this type of arrangement.

  • Q.Who gets alimony and why?

    A.You and your spouse can agree to any type of alimony and terms for alimony as you see fit. However, if you leave the decision to a judge alimony is difficult to predict.

    While there are no exact guidelines for alimony in Florida law (you may read the alimony statute by clicking here), the law list factors a judge must consider.

    The most important issues the court will consider are:
    – The lifestyle the couple had prior to the divorce. If possible, a court will divide assets and future income in a way that allows both spouses to continue their lifestyle.

    – The length of the marriage. If the marriage is under 7 years, it is considered short term and alimony is much less likely. A marriage over 14 years will normally justify alimony. Marriages that lasted between the two numbers can go either way. The length of the marriage is only one issue. The judge will consider all of the issues before deciding.

    -The ability of one spouse to pay money and the need of the other spouse. The court will look at your ability to work, whether you worked in the past, and how much you earned. Other issues may be important such as special needs of children and if those needs interfere with work. The court will also look to see if you purposely became unemployed or are earning less due to your own lack of effort.

    -The amount of property to be divided. If a spouse gets a significant settlement that provides enough money to support their lifestyle, the possibility of alimony is reduced.

     

    Men versus women: Contrary to popular opinion, there is no legal preference if you are a man or woman. Either spouse can seek alimony. Courts are supposed to make decisions without regard to gender.

  • Q.How do I get the support taken out of the other party’s paycheck?

    A.Unless the other party is self-employed, income deduction orders are usually entered in cases where support has been ordered. Once you have received this order, it is generally your responsibility to contact the Clerk of Court to obtain a “certified” copy of your income deduction order. It is then your responsibility to mail the certified income deduction order to the employer. It is suggested that you use certified mail so you have proof that it was received by the employer. If the other party changes jobs frequently, you may need to follow this procedure every time they change jobs. The income deduction order is not made out to a specific job, it should be accepted by any employer (note: this should include employers in other states). The income deduction order makes the employer a party to the case.

    Click here to watch the video tutorial for completing an Income Deduction Order.

  • Q.If I move out of my home, and my spouse has the exclusive use of it, have I abandoned any rights and do I have to help with any of the mortgage?

    A.You will not be abandoning any rights to the property by leaving. As to whether you will have to help with the mortgage or other home related expenses, you may be responsible for alimony or child support which practically speaking will be used for the mortgage. But aside from alimony and child support, you do have an obligation as a co-owner to contribute towards the expenses of this joint marital asset.

  • Q.If my spouse will not attend Florida's required parenting course, can I still get divorced?

    A.Yes. If your spouse refuses to take the course, you can file a motion with the court requesting that your spouse to show cause why he/she should not be held in contempt for failure to comply with requirement.

    After filing the motion, you will need to set the motion for hearing with the Judge.

  • Q.I don’t have a lawyer. My spouse’s lawyer never sends me copies of stuff from the hearing and now this is signed and it’s wrong. I never got my chance to object.

    A.You may file a written Motion to the judge, with a copy to the attorney, stating your objections to the Order, or how you feel the Order does not reflect the judge’s ruling. It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not his or her order accurately reflected the ruling at the hearing.

  • Q.This draft the lawyer sent me is nothing like what the judge ordered at the hearing, it’s all changed around in my husband’s favor; I object. What do I do?

    A.You may file a written Motion to the judge, with a copy to the attorney, stating your objections to the Order, or how you feel the Order does not reflect the judge’s ruling. It will be up to the judge to decide whether or not his or her order accurately reflected the ruling at the hearing.

  • Q.The Clerk requires that I file a Nonmilitary Affidavit before they will enter a default in my case. My problem is, my spouse IS in the military, so I can’t truthfully file one. Does this mean I can’t get a default?

    A.It probably means you can’t get a default issued by the Clerk. You can also have your Motion for Default heard by a judge or one of the General Masters instead of requesting one from the Clerk. However, this situation is complicated by Federal Law and you should have a lawyer assist you.

  • Q.I filed a petition for divorce and there was no answer. What do I do now so I can get a hearing.

    A.If the Petition was served on your spouse and your spouse did not file a written response within twenty (20) days of the date of service, you may file a Motion for Default.

    Note: the clerk cannot process defaults until 25 days has lapsed due to allowances for postal mail.

    You will also have to complete a Nonmilitary Affidavit, stating that your spouse is not currently serving in the military. After you have completed and filed these forms, the Clerk may enter a Default, if appropriate, in your case.

    Click here for instructions on completing a Motion for Default.

    Click here for instructions on completing a Nonmilitary Affidavit.

     

    Once the Default is entered, you may proceed with your case without further notice to your spouse.

    However, the law requires that your spouse receive notice of any final hearing in the dissolution (divorce) action.

  • Q.How is child support paid?

    A.There are three options for payment of child support:

    – direct pay (one parent is ordered to pay the child support directly to the other parent),

    – state disbursement unit (one parent is ordered to send payments to the state disbursement unit who then sends the payment to the other parent), and

    – Income Deduction Order (this is an Order entered by the Court that is sent to the employer of the parent ordered to pay with an amount that must be deducted from the parent’s paycheck and sent to the state disbursement unit – the state disbursement unit then sends the payment to the other parent).

    Florida law requires that all child support payments must be paid through the state disbursement unit unless both parties agree to have it paid directly.

    If you are seeking child support you should consider which option will work best for their situation – this information should be explained to the judge or magistrate during the hearing so that the best solution can be worked out for the parties and entered into an Order.

  • Q.My hearing is scheduled, but I cannot wait that long and need an earlier date – what should I do?

    A.You may call the office of the judge or magistrate, as applicable, and request an earlier hearing date. However, an earlier hearing date may not be available.

  • Q.I have been ordered to take a parenting course – why do I have to do this?

    A.Florida Statute §61.21(4) requires that all parties to a dissolution of marriage with children or a paternity action that involves issues of parental responsibility are required to complete a parenting course before a Final Judgment is entered. The court may hold any parent who fails to attend this required parenting course in contempt and impose appropriate sanctions.

    A current list of approved parenting course providers is located http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childwelfare/stabilization/

  • Q.What is a magistrate?

    A.A magistrate is an attorney who hears cases referred by a judge and acts in a quasi-judicial capacity. Magistrates handle different issues in different circuits. In most cases, the magistrate hears the cases and provides recommendations to the judge. An Order of Referral, which is a notice that tell you your case has been delegated to a magistrate, is sent to all parties of a case before the case is heard by the magistrate, and the parties must agree that the magistrate can hear the case.

    An Order of Referral contains the following language:

    A REFERRAL TO A GENERAL MAGISTRATE REQUIRES THE CONSENT OF ALL PARTIES. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO HAVE THIS MATTER HEARD BEFORE A JUDGE. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THIS MATTER HEARD BEFORE THE GENERAL MAGISTRATE, YOU MUST FILE A WRITTEN OBJECTION TO THE REFERRAL WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THE TIME OF SERVICE OF THIS ORDER. IF THE TIME SET FOR THE HEARING IS LESS THAN 10 DAYS AFTER THE SERVICE OF THIS ORDER, THE OBJECTION MUST BE MADE BEFORE THE HEARING. IF THIS ORDER IS SERVED WITHIN THE FIRST 20 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF PROCESS, THE TIME TO FILE AN OBJECTION IS EXTENDED TO THE TIME WITHIN WHICH A RESPONSIVE PLEADING IS DUE. FAILURE TO FILE A WRITTEN OBJECTION WITHIN THE APPLICABLE TIME PERIOD IS DEEMED TO BE A CONSENT TO THE REFERRAL.

    REVIEW OF THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY THE GENERAL MAGISTRATE SHALL BE BY EXCEPTIONS AS PROVIDED IN RULE 12.490(f), FLA. FAM. L. R. P. A RECORD, WHICH INCLUDES A TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS, MAY BE REQUIRED TO SUPPORT THE EXCEPTIONS.

    If you do not want your case to be handled by a magistrate you must file a written object with the clerk of court within 10 days from the date you receive the Order of Referral. If no one objects, the magistrate will hear your case.

    If there are no exceptions to the recommendations of the magistrate timely filed by the parties, the recommendations are forwarded to the judge to be signed as an Order.

  • Q.What happens when my case goes before the General Magistrate?

    A.If the hearing is before the General Magistrate, you will need to bring three copies of the Final Judgment form and two envelopes with postage addressed to the petitioner and the respondent.

    At the hearing the General Magistrate takes testimony of the parties. He can approve the final judgment, continue the hearing or dismiss the case. The magistrate prepares a Report and Recommendation for the Court and if approved, he will forward your file to the Judge to sign your Final Judgment.

    The Judge will then forward copies of the Final Judgment to the parties ONLY IF the copies and envelopes have been provided.

    Many institutions DO NOT accept a regular or conformed copy to change a name, etc. If you need a certified copy of the Final Judgment, you can obtain it from the Clerk of Court for $1.00 per page plus $2.00 for certification.

  • Q.WHAT IS ADA?

    A.The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was enacted to ensure that all qualified individuals with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.

    The ADA directly affects state courts as providers of public programs and services. Under the act, an individual with a “disability” is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Examples of physical impairments include: speech and hearing impairments, visual impairments, epilepsy, heart disease, HIV infections/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and mobility impairments. Examples of mental impairments include: learning disabilities and psychological disorders.

    The ADA is divided into five sections. Title I of the act prohibits unreasonable discrimination against qualified individuals based on a disability in all employment activities. Under Title II of the Act, no qualified individual with a disability shall be unreasonably discriminated against, or excluded from participation in or benefits of the services, programs, or activities of state and local government, including the judicial branch. Title III prohibits discrimination by public accommodations, that is, a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodations. Such a place is defined as, among other things, services by doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals. Title IV relates to telecommunications and Title V contains miscellaneous provisions.

    If you are a person with a disability who needs any accommodation in order to participate in a proceeding, you are entitled, at no cost to you, the provision of certain assistance.

    Contact the ADA Coordinator for your local county court at least 7 days before your scheduled court appearance, or immediately upon receiving your notification if the time before the scheduled appearance is less than 7 days; if you are hearing or voice impaired, call 711.

  • Q.What should I bring to court and what am I supposed to do?

    A.– Dress appropriately for court
    – Be on time for your hearing
    – Both parties should attend scheduled hearings
    – Remain calm
    – Speak directly to the judge or the magistrate
    – Address the judge as “judge” or “your honor”
    – Listen to the judge or the magistrate and do not interrupt someone when he/she is speaking – each party will have time to speak
    – The court can only hear matters that have been properly filed and are scheduled for hearing, so stay focused on the issues that are in the pleading and scheduled for that hearing
    – Do not bring your children to court with you unless you have been ordered by the judge to have the children present. If you bring your children you will need to have someone who can supervise them outside of the courtroom while your case is being heard.
    – Bring your valid Florida Drivers License, Florida Voter’s Registration Card, or valid Florida Identification Card with you
    – Bring any documents you think may be necessary for your case depending on the issues that have been identified in the petition or motion (such as receipts, bills, proof of real estate, copies of checks, etc. – see Chapter 90 “Evidence Code”Florida Statutes for more information)
    – Know what you want before the hearing and be able to explain to the judge or magistrate why it is you want it
    – Ask questions if you do not understand what is going on – you should leave the hearing knowing what happened

  • Q.If I reconcile with my spouse after filing for the divorce, will the clerk refund my filing fees?

    A.No, the filing fee is not refundable should the parties wish to reconcile and dismiss the case.

  • Q.I filed a petition for divorce and there was no answer. What do I do now so I can get a hearing?

    A.If the Petition was served on your spouse and your spouse did not file a written response within twenty (20) days of the date of service, you may file a Motion for Default.

    Note: the clerk cannot process defaults until 25 days has lapsed due to allowances for postal mail.

    You will also have to complete a Nonmilitary Affidavit, stating that your spouse is not currently serving in the military. After you have completed and filed these forms, the Clerk may enter a Default, if appropriate, in your case.
    Click here for instructions on completing a Motion for Default.
    Click here for instructions on completing a Nonmilitary Affidavit.

    Once the Default is entered, you may proceed with your case without further notice to your spouse.

    However, the law requires that your spouse receive notice of any final hearing in the dissolution (divorce) action.


Questions About How to Use This Website

  • Q.How do I download the divorce forms I need?

    A. 

    You can find all of the forms you need to complete for your divorce under each video tutorial and on the Your Forms tab in the navigation to the left of the website’s logo.

  • Q.How do I get back to the start page?

    A.You can access all of the introductory videos from any place on the site by clicking on the website’s logo in the upper left hand corner.

Contact Us

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