A typical divorce is complex, time-consuming, and traumatic. You might question whether you wish to suffer all of this just for the sake of your divorce. Additionally, if you are having financial problems, you might feel that you simply cannot afford to pay a lawyer.
So, can you file for a divorce without a lawyer? Yes, you can, using a legal device known as a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage. You can use a lawyer for this, but you probably won’t need one.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
If you don’t qualify for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, you might still qualify for an ordinary uncontested divorce. That takes longer than a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, but it is still far quicker and easier than a contested divorce.
The conditions for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage are:
- Both parties must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken;
- Both parties must completely agree to the terms of the divorce;
- The couple must not have any minor children (under 18);
- The couple must have no dependent children, even if they are legal adults;
- The wife must not be pregnant;
- Neither party must be demanding alimony from the other;
- At least one of the divorcing spouses must have resided in Florida for at least the past six months; and
- Both parties must give up the right to trial and appeal.
Simplified Dissolution of Marriage works best if you have little or no property to divide. The reason for this is that both parties must agree on property division. The more property there is to divide, the more likely it is that a dispute will erupt. Remember also that a dispute is just as likely to erupt over your debts as over your assets.
You can download the court form for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage here (scroll down). Complete the form, but don’t sign it yet. Although it is fairly straightforward, you should definitely ask a family lawyer if you have any questions or uncertainties about it.
Signing and Submitting the Form
You and your spouse must both sign the form at the office of the court clerk. Since the signatures must be notarized, you must sign it at the clerk’s office. Your spouse must do the same.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to sign the form together—one of you can sign it one day, and the other can sign it another day. Remember to keep a copy of the signed form.
The Marital Settlement Agreement (Optional)
You can download a Marital Settlement Agreement from the same web page where you found the Simplified Dissolution of Marriage form. If both you and your spouse complete and sign it, and if you file it with the clerk of the circuit court, you will publicly document your agreement on property division. This will help if a dispute ever erupts. Otherwise, a future property dispute could devolve into a “he said, she said” contest with no conclusive documentation.
Proving Florida Residency
One of you must prove that you have lived in Florida for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. Typically, you prove this with a driver’s license or a state-issued personal ID. You can also fill out an affidavit or rely on third-party testimony.
You must pay the clerk a filing fee of $409 (as of October 2023). Under certain circumstances (e.g. poverty), you can waive this fee.
The Family Court Cover Sheet
You will need to submit a Family Court Cover Sheet (scroll down). The court clerk may provide you with this form.
You and your spouse must both show up at a hearing in front of a judge. The court will inform you whether you need to complete any additional paperwork. If so, it should not be overwhelming.
Finalizing Your Divorce
If you meet all of the qualifications mentioned above, and as long as you agree on remaining issues, such as property division, the court can grant you a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage in about 30 days.
You May or May Not Need a Florida Family Law Attorney To Help With Your Divorce
Lawyerless divorce typically works well only if the couple is childless (or the children have already grown up) and neither party owns much property or carries much debt. If you do decide you need legal assistance, it’s best to get a lawyer involved earlier than later.
Contact the Orlando Family and Divorce Law Firm of Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC for Help Today
Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC
815 N Magnolia Ave Suite 100
Orlando, FL 32803