Dissolution of Marriage
Family mediation is a session with a specially trained neutral third party who helps you and your spouse reach decisions about family matters including child support, custody, visitation schedules, distribution of property and debts, and alimony. Unless you and your spouse have a complete Marital Settlement Agreement filed with the Clerk of Court, you will be required to attend family mediation as part of the case process.
If you have children, you are also required to complete an approved parenting class. In an effort to help children handle the stress of divorce, Parent Education and Family Stabilization courses are required under Florida Statutes § 61.21 and Administrative Order No. 5.05. Please note that correspondence or internet courses will only be accepted for parents living out of state, in counties where the parenting classes are not available, or on a case by case basis at the direction of the judge. A current list of approved parenting class providers can be found here.
More information on these requirements may be obtained from your Clerk of Court. If required, both medation and the parenting class must be completed before you can schedule a final hearing in your case.
Frequently Asked Questions
We are separated. I don't want a divorce. We have children. S/He wants to see them, but I won't allow that.
If you are married, both parents have equal rights to the children unless and until there is some court action to the contrary, such as a final judgment of dissolution of marriage - divorce.
I want separation papers drawn up.
Consult with an attorney. There is no legal separation in Florida, therefore we do not have a packet for legal separation.
Can I get a divorce without an attorney when there are children involved?
Yes. Litigants with children can petition the court for divorce without an attorney. Packets and instructions for Alachua County are available in the Law Library or Clerk's Office. Packets and instructions for Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy or Union counties are available from the Clerk of Court in that county.
How do I get a divorce?
Obtain an attorney or file pro se. To file pro se in Alachua County, obtain the divorce packet from the Alachua County Clerk's Office or Law Library, and follow the instructions in the packet. To file pro se in Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy or Union counties, obtain the divorce packet from the Clerk of Court in the county where you wish to file.
What's the easiest way to get a divorce?
If you don't have any children, have agreed on separating your property and debts, and your spouse is willing to go to the courthouse with you twice, then you may be able to file a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.
We have no property; no debts; this isn't necessary; I just don't want the other person to see what I make. Do I/we have to file the financial affidavit?
Yes. In a simplified dissolution and all cases involving children, Florida Law requires completion of financial affidavits for both parties.
I don't know where my spouse is. Can I still get a divorce?
Yes. You will be required to go to great lengths to find your spouse. The court will expect you to provide proof showing you tried every possible way in attempting to locate your spouse. There are detailed forms in the packet for this type of situation which you will be required to follow.
I live in Baker County, but I want to file in Alachua County.
Venue for a Dissolution of Marriage proceeding lies in the county in which the parties last lived as a husband and wife or in which the parties own real property. Also, the judge in another county may have limited jurisdiction regarding child custody and property.
What's been filed in my case?
Contact the Civil Clerk of Court where you filed by phone or visit the clerk in person during office hours for information about what is in your file.
My spouse won't acknowledge that I gave him/her the divorce forms.
Have the Sheriff serve the papers. The clerk of court will assist you issuing the summons.
What is Service of Process?
When the Sheriff delivers the forms you have filed to the other party, then sends you proof that the other party received the forms. You must file the proof from the Sheriff in your case file. The other party has 20 days from the day after he or she was served to file an answer to your petition in writing.
Do I have to have service of process?
Not all cases require service of process. If the other party is willing to file an answer to your petition, he or she does not need to be served.
Does the Default period after Service of Process include weekends?
Yes. The respondent has 20 days from the date of delivery, which includes weekends and holidays in which to file his or her written answer.
What if s/he files before the 20 days?
Immediately move on to the next step in your case.
What if s/he does not file within the 20 days?
File your proof of service and request a Default be entered.
When will my final hearing be?
The Family Court staff does not have specific dates of when litigants hearings are scheduled. Hearings are set according to the Judge or General Magistrate's schedule. Once you have completed the Notice that case is at Issue/Request for Hearing form and followed the instructions for filing, the date of the hearing will be mailed to you and the other party.
I requested a hearing in an Alachua County case, and have not gotten my notice in the mail.
If the Notice that Action is at Issue/Request for Hearing form has already been filed, and it was filed over four weeks ago, contact the Family Court Case Manager at (352) 374-3694.
I requested a hearing (Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy or Union County), and have not gotten my notice in the mail.
Contact the Regional Family Court Case Manager at (352) 374-3665. Please leave your name, the county in which you filed and the case number on the voice mail.
We are getting back together. How do I get rid of this divorce case?
File a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal.
I took a Parenting Course somewhere else so I don't need to take it here.
There are several Parent Education and Family Stabilization courses that have been approved by the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court. If a party attends a course that has been approved by the circuit court in another circuit, it is likely the judge will accept it.
I have had my kids for 16 years, I don't need to take the Parenting Education Course. I know how to be a parent.
It is mandatory in the State of Florida for litigants to take a Parent Education and Family Stabilization course which is a four hour seminar. The course is designed to educate parents about how the divorce effects the child and how to help children handle the stress of divorce.
I live out of state (the other party is in Florida). Do I have to go to Florida for the Parenting Education Course?
The Parent Education and Family Stabilization class has a seminar available via the internet. If you do not have access to the internet, your local library usually has internet access available to the public.
I took the parenting class, but my spouse refuses to.
The other party will have to answer to the Judge.
I cannot afford the price of the required Parenting Education Course.
If you have established indigency with the Clerk's office, obtain the Motion to Reduce Fee for Mandated Parenting Education Class and file it in your case. You must also fill out and file the "Order Reducing the Fee" for the Judge to sign or your motion will not be granted.
What is the difference between shared parental responsibility and sole parental responsibility?
Shared parental responsibility is defined as "a court ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly". This means that each parent has input into the major decisions affecting the child's life and each parent has access to any and all school and/or medical records involving the child.
Sole parental responsibility is defined as "a court ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions for the minor child", which means that the parent with sole parental responsibility is not required to consult with the other parent before making decisions regarding the child.
Regardless of whether shared or sole parental responsibility is granted, the Court will also determine which parent has the primary parental responsibilities and what the time sharing of the other parent should be.
My ex-wife won't let me see the kids when it's their time to see me. What can I do?
Consult an attorney for legal counsel or review the various motion packets available to see if it applies to your case.
I am court ordered to pay child support, but I have no time share rights.
If the parties were not married, and the child support hearing officer ordered child support, a Modification of Paternity packet is available to have the court address parenting plan/time sharing issues. If the parents were married and have divorced, the case may be brought back to court to enforce the parenting plan/time sharing or to modify the existing order.
My children went to my ex-spouse for their time sharing. He left the state with them! How do I get them back?
Contact local law enforcement for assistance if the court order has not been followed. Or if you know where your child has been taken, you will probably have to go to court there and show your Florida judgment giving you custody of your child.
I don't like my ex-spouses new boyfriend/girlfriend around my child.
Consult with an attorney about your rights and your ex-spouses rights when they have the children. Packets to Modify Parenting Plan/Time Sharing are available if you want to ask the court to change the existing order.
We have moved and want our case here too. What should we do?
If within Florida, contact the court which currently has jurisdiction and ask them about their procedures for a Change of Venue. If your motion to change venue is granted, the case can be moved.