Simplified Divorce

Sometimes, marriage ends early or in any case with no property, children and no real financial issues. The parties just want to end their marriage and they want to do it in the simplest and least costly fashion.

Before 1984, if parties wanted a divorce, they usually had to go to a lawyer because the process was complicated requiring the lawyer's legal knowledge. In 1984, the simplified dissolution of marriage (divorce) was authorized by the Florida Supreme Court. The simplified divorce procedure has certain minimum requirements. There must be no children and the wife cannot be pregnant. All property rights must be settled with a written agreement and the parties must go to court together.

Procedure

If you qualify for the simplified dissolution of marriage procedure, you can go to the clerk's office (clerk of the circuit court, family division) and obtained the necessary forms for a nominal cost. The clerk is permitted to give you some assistance in filling out the forms but cannot give you legal advice. They are not attorneys and are not permitted to give their legal opinion concerning your particular case. You must fill out a simple financial affidavit and you must list on a form how you and your spouse want to divide your assets and debts. A wife is permitted to restore her former name. Neither party is permitted to request alimony.

Proof of Residency

Florida law requires you to be a resident of Florida for at least six months before the divorce case is filed. Only one of the spouses needs to be a resident of Florida. Residency can be established by producing a valid Florida driver's license or a Florida voter's registration card. Be careful that your driver's license or voter's registration card was issued at least six months prior to your filing the divorce in order to establish the six-month residency requirement. If you don't have either a driver's license or a voter's registration card, you can establish residency by bringing a sworn affidavit to the hearing or having someone testify in court as to your residency.

Final Judgment

After you have prepared the forms and filed them with the clerk and paid the filing fee, the clerk will assist you in scheduling a final hearing with the judge. At the hearing the judge will review the forms that you have prepared. It is usually not necessary for the court to hear testimony unless the court has questions after reviewing the documents. You will receive a final judgment in the mail 20 days after you have filed the forms and appeared before the judge.

The simplified divorce procedure works in many cases. However, there is a significant risk that the case will not go according to plan. Parties who are unrepresented have unwittingly botched their case and as a result end up with a bad, if not, an unenforceable agreement. Even though the procedure is designed to be used by parties without attorneys, it is highly recommended that parties contemplating a simplified divorce receive legal counsel from the experienced divorce attorneys at our Santa Rosa Beach and Destin law firm.