What Do I Need to Know about Uncontested Divorce in Orlando Florida?
Even when one or both spouses no longer wants to be married, they generally dread the actual divorce process. After all, who wants to take time off work just to argue about who gets what?
Luckily—so long as both parties can agree on everything—an uncontested divorce can provide an easy way through the process.
What Is Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is a simple way for married couples to get divorced when they agree on how to settle all their divorce-related issues:
- Custody (also known as “Parental Responsibility”),
- Child Support & Visitation (also known as “Time Sharing”)
- Division of Property and Debt (“Equitable Distribution”), and
- Alimony (“Spousal Support”).
Couples have two options for an uncontested divorce in Florida.
The first option is called a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.” This is available to married couples who are not seeking alimony and do not have any minor children (neither spouse can be pregnant).
Both spouses must want to pursue an uncontested divorce and must be in complete agreement that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
The second option is a regular dissolution of marriage that is going to proceed as “uncontested.”
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Who Qualifies For an Uncontested Divorce in Florida?
In order to qualify for any divorce in Florida, you or your spouse must have been a Florida resident for at least six (6) months prior to filing a petition for divorce.
Note that only one spouse needs to fulfill this requirement.
Second, the two of you must have a legal reason for seeking a divorce. As a no-fault state, Florida law doesn’t require you to place blame on anyone and there are only two options available:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning there is nothing that can be done to save the marriage (this is the most commonly cited reason for divorce in Florida).
- One of the parties has been mentally incapacitated for at least three years.
How Does Uncontested Divorce in Florida Work?
Much of the hassle involved in the divorce process is due to spousal disputes. With an uncontested divorce, the process is usually quick and simple.
STEP 1 – Fill out the forms required in your county. These forms are available online (search: “Petition For Dissolution of Divorce”) free of charge. If you wish, you can hire a lawyer or document prep service to handle your uncontested divorce for you (more on that later).
STEP 2 – Fill out a Marital Settlement Agreement that details everything you and your spouse have agreed to.
STEP 3 – If you have minor children, you will be required to complete a parenting course and prepare a Parenting Plan. The judge must approve your plan and the child support amount and can reject these agreements if s/he doesn’t think they are in your childrens’ best interests.
STEP 4 – Once all of your documents are prepared, file them with the Clerk of Courts in your county and pay the filing fee. This fee varies by county, but is usually around $400.
STEP 5 – The final step is for the judge to enter a Final Judgment granting your divorce. In some counties, you may have to make a brief appearance at a final hearing.
How Long Does The Process Take?
There is a mandatory 20-day waiting period from the time you file your petition before a judge can grant your divorce.
By the time all the paperwork has been reviewed and the court dates settled, most uncontested divorces take about 2-3 months to be finalized, but certain factors can prolong the process.
One of the most common reasons for a delayed divorce is scheduling issues. If the divorce court in your county is backed up, you may have to wait to schedule your Final Hearing.
Another common reason is a spouse that is having difficulty going through with the divorce, despite agreeing to all of the terms. For example, if one spouse fears life after divorce, they may drag their feet.
Couples filing for a divorce on their own (i.e. without an attorney) may experience many delays, especially if they have made mistakes or overlooked necessary steps.
Finally, while Florida law allows couples to file for divorce if one of them is pregnant, in some cases, the divorce will not be finalized until after the birth. Depending on how far along you are in the pregnancy, this can make your divorce last many more months.
How Much Does Uncontested Divorce Cost?
The cost for your uncontested divorce will depend on many factors:
- Whether you use a document preparation service to prepare your forms;
- Whether you or your spouse hire a lawyer;
- Whether you and your spouse need mediation to help you come to an agreement;
- Whether you and your spouse have documented your agreements in writing.
In general, when working with a lawyer, you should expect your uncontested divorce to cost somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000. Your total attorney’s fee will depend on many factors, including how much your attorney charges and whether or not you have children.
This guideline is merely an estimation, however, and you should ask your attorney about their fees when you hire them.
At Leap Frog Divorce, we charge a flat fee for uncontested divorces to keep the process as uncomplicated as possible. If children are involved, our rate is $5,000. If there are no minor children involved, our fee is $4,000.
How Are Assets Divided In an Uncontested Divorce?
Many people are under the mistaken impression that they cannot pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida if they have a substantial amount of assets.
This couldn’t be further from the truth!
As long as you and your spouse agree about how to divide your property and debt, you can get an uncontested divorce.
In many cases, you may not even have to disclose your finances.
If you and your spouse have no children, reach agreement on how to divide your property, and neither of you is requesting permanent financial relief from the court, then you may be able to avoid having to file a Financial Affidavit.
You can also waive what is called “Mandatory Disclosure.”
Mandatory Disclosure refers to the Florida law that requires each spouse to exchange a long list of financial documents with each other. Here are some of the documents required to be exchanged under the Mandatory Disclosure rule:
- IRS tax returns
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Lease agreements
- Retirement statements
- Credit reports
- Brokerage/investment statements
If you are concerned about having to disclose any assets or other financial information, speaking to an expert divorce lawyer can give you much-needed guidance in this area.
Uncontested Divorce in Florida With Children
A Simplified Dissolution of Marriage requires that there be no minor children involved, but if you have children, you can still file for an uncontested divorce.
Visitation, also known as “Time Sharing,” works the same way as in any other divorce. You and your spouse have to agree to a visitation schedule for each of your children. Your visitation agreements should specify things like the following:
- when will each child spend time with mom
- when will each child spend time with dad
- at what time and what days will an exchange of the children take place and where will it take place
- who will have the children for each holiday
- who will have the children during school breaks, such as Winter Break, Spring Break, and Summer
You should expect an increase in the cost and the paperwork, as you will have to draft a Parenting Plan that lists the details of your custody and visitation agreements. You will also need to fill out a Florida Child Support Guidelines Worksheet for the judge to review.
Do I Need a Lawyer To Get an Uncontested Divorce in Florida?
You aren’t required to hire a lawyer to get divorced, but it is a very good idea.
To better understand why, let’s examine your other options.
You could choose to prepare your documents and file them yourself or use a document preparation service. However, neither of these options provide you with legal advice.
For an uncomplex divorce, you may not need to know about your rights, receive any legal advice, or get help with negotiations. If you don’t have any minor children, neither is seeking alimony from the other, and you have very few assets, you can probably handle your uncontested divorce on your own.
However, if you have minor children, a home, retirement plans, and/or own a business, a divorce lawyer can be hugely beneficial.
The good news is that “hiring a divorce attorney” doesn’t have to mean the same thing for everybody.
Some people may only need a divorce consulting attorney to review your paperwork and advise you of your rights. Others may need a lawyer to file the paperwork for them and assist with negotiations.
If you’re unsure about how much involvement you need, speak to an attorney for advice specific to your situation.
Is Uncontested Divorce Right For Me?
When it comes to divorce, there is no solution that is best for every couple in every situation.
An uncontested divorce may be the right option for you if:
- You are looking for a low-cost method of divorce;
- You and your spouse agree on most of the issues surrounding your divorce;
- You want to complete the process quickly;
- You want to avoid going to court.
However, not every couple may find themselves in such an ideal situation.
Uncontested divorce may not be a viable option for you if:
- You and your spouse cannot agree about issues such as custody, visitation, alimony, or child support;
- Your relationship has a significant power imbalance, with your spouse exercising substantial control over you;
- There is a history of domestic violence and/or hostility in your relationship.
Scheduling a consultation with a divorce attorney can give you valuable insight into which method of divorce is right for you and what you can expect.
A Better Way To Divorce
Divorce is one of the most stressful events you will ever experience, so it is important to have a guide who can help you identify your rights and responsibilities.
At Leap Frog Divorce, we do our best to keep every divorce as simple and uncomplicated as possible. We will walk you through each step and make sure everything is done right the first time, so there are no surprises later.
We offer very affordable options for an uncontested divorce and—more importantly—can facilitate a more positive divorce experience.