Florida is a No Fault Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) state. What this means is that one party to a divorce action need not claim or prove that their spouse did something wrong within the marriage to obtain a divorce. In Florida all that need be shown to obtain a divorce is that the parties, or one of them, has resided in Florida for at least six months prior to the date the Petition for Dissolution was filed and that the marriage in question is irretrievably broken, a matter that can be attested to by just one of the parties.
Florida currently has two separate divorce processes, Contested Dissolution and Simplified Dissolution. The Contested Dissolution process requires the parties, in almost all instances, to exchange financial documentation and affidavits as required under Florida Statutes, more about Contested Dissolution later. A Simplified Dissolution process is available where neither party is seeking financial support from the other, the parties have no minor or dependent children between them, the parties have signed an agreement that divides the parties’ debts and assets between them and both parties agree to appear before the court for the Final Hearing on the Dissolution of Marriage.
The advantage of a Simplified Dissolution is primarily expedience; the parties are not required to exchange what is referred to as Mandatory Disclosure (documents regarding the financial condition of each party) and they may be able to waive the exchange of sworn Financial Affidavits. The disadvantage of a Simplified Dissolution is that the parties are not required to exchange Mandatory Disclosure and they may be able to waive the exchange of sworn Financial Affidavits. This is true for example where one party is not fully aware of the other party’s financial condition or may believe that they are when in fact they are not. This can result in a very inequitable divorce which when reduced to a Final Judgment of Dissolution cannot be rectified.
As stated earlier, one of the requirements of a Simplified Dissolution is that the parties present to the court a signed agreement that divides the parties’ debts and assets between the parties. Parties unfamiliar with the legal intricacies of equitable distribution often enter into agreements that are in fact inequitable at best and unenforceable at worst. At a minimum, parties contemplating utilizing the Simplified Dissolution process should have their agreement reviewed by a Family Law attorney of his or her choice before signing the document. Another way the parties may protect themselves from entering into a bad agreement is through the process of Collaborative Divorce (see more about this topic by clicking the highlighted words or navigating to the Collaborative Divorce Section located above) Contested Dissolution, what many would refer to as a normal dissolution of marriage, is a process wherein each party is required to provide to the other a mandatory minimum production of financial documentation, including a sworn Florida Family Law Financial Affidavit. The Contested Dissolution process must be followed where there are minor children common to the parties; one spouse is seeking financial support from the other or where one of the parties elects to use the process.