divorce in florida

Divorce Laws in Florida

Divorce in Florida is guided by a section of the Florida Statutes called Chapter 61. That statute guides most, if not all divorce issues – including parenting time, alimony, child support, division of assets, and entitlement to attorney fees.

A Florida divorce court will normally consider all involved issues in a certain order. Attorneys remember the priority of issues by thinking of an acronym known as PEACE

P – Parenting issues (custody, time-sharing, school, medical, etc)

Parenting issues involve decisions on the children such as: where they will sleep, where they go to school, doctors, religion, transportation. Think of parenting issues as everything a child does on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual bases. When children are involved in a divorce case parenting decisions have priority. That is why we show parenting at the top of the list.

E – Equitable Distribution (division of assets and debts)

This is the system we use in Florida for figuring out who gets what – and who owes what.  Florida uses a system called equitable distribution as opposed to a community property state. All that means is that we use standard starting points for division and then apply various exceptions to make things “fair”.

A – Alimony

All the different forms of alimony are considered if a divorce case supports an alimony claim.  Some different types are permanent periodic, durational, bridge the gap, and rehabilitative alimony.

C – Child Support

Child support is next in line because alimony may reduce or increase the amount of income a parent has available. The incomes used to calculate child support are net income plus or minus alimony.

E – Everything else (all remaining issues, including attorney fees)

There are always lots of other issues connected with a Florida divorce case. One really big, contentious issue is entitlement to attorney fees. In a Florida divorce case the judge has jurisdiction over many different issues and the ability to impose an all encompassing solution.


divorce in florida

The steps to a divorce are pretty much the same in every family law court throughout Florida. Most of the common steps are laid out in statute. But each particular jurisdiction and each family law judge institute slight variations. The variations in divorce case procedure are commonly intended to increase efficiency. One common example is the Case Management Conference (CMC). CMCs are used in some jurisdictions to allow the judge to “nudge” the case forward if it is stuck. They take the form of short, 15 minute hearings to allow the judge a look into the case. But CMCs are not used by all family law courts.

Divorce law is initially spelled out in Florida Statute 61. But the various situations encountered in family law court are too numerous for the statutes to cover. That is why we have a system in Florida called common law. That is a system where years of court decisions slowly fill in the gaps unaddressed by the divorce statutes. What that means is that attorneys must research case law before hearings to see what previous decisions have established.

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  • Toucan717

    I know the divorce process from start to finish can take time. Its been nearly 6 weeks sincce I last heard from my attorney. The last interaction I had was after I submitted my full disclosure documents. I just want to know where I stand in the process, but I am getting no response from email or calls. Should I be wooried? or should I just wait and I will be contacted when thre is something to tell. i believe the next step is mediation, but I am only guessing at this point. Help, please.

    • HowardIken

      If the next step is mediation, there is nothing to be worried about. Mediation typically takes some time to arrange. You should get an answer to your calls. If that is important to you, call the managing attorney at the firm – if there is one.

  • Dad

    My Ex and I orig. agreed on a middle school. My Ex filled out the open enrollment papers, and they denied her bc her address is not in that district. Now that it is time to send her there, she is changing her mind bc she does not want to use my address, which is in that district. I want to send my daughter to the same school as her step sister. We have 50/50 shared care and the decree does not state a primary residence. What are my chances of getting her in the same school as her step sister? Having kids in different schools is a hardship

    • HowardIken

      You have an excellent chance – as long as you properly present your case. It would be a good thing if you have any communications discussing the agreement. Text or emails will do. If the kids are close, that is always a factor. The language of your judgment and your past pattern are important. If you are in one of our areas we offer a free consult.

      • Dad

        Thank you. I believe the question regarding school was asked in a previous court hearing. It may be on record. other than that it was verbal. She will not do any agreeing on text/paper/email. So that she can comeback and say ‘no” I did not agree to that. The language in the decree is very very simple. Just states we have to agree on schooling. The school has an online system that they use for registration and since her name has been first for the last years, they are going off that as the “primary” address to send her to school in “that” district. Even though our decree does not state that either of us have primary, so its a battle with the district too.

  • Ilene Stevens

    I was married in Arizona and have been living in Florida for 2 1/2 years. We have been married 5 years and my husband moved us to two different states due to his employment. He has been mentally abusive to myself and my son and an alcoholic. I make 1/4 of what he makes and he has shut me off from the bank account and refuses to pay any of the bills or buy food. I have been spending my entire paycheck paying but can’t afford to pay the rent . He offers no help around the home and eats the food I buy so he can control me with money, Its been almost 4 months that he has done this, He also took me off health insurance and constantly yells at me, I want a divorce and can’t afford it. What are my rights in Florida and can he get away with doing nothing

    • HowardIken

      In a 5 year marriage any alimony claim may be weak. But there is more to it than that, and you should have a private consult with an attorney. There is always child support but payment depends on where the child is living. In any case you should try to develop a way to earn money on your own. Whatever the outcome you will probably need an ability to make money.

  • sonja Kerner

    Am married 22 years my husband walked out on me and my son,at 2005,( my son was 14 in this time) all he paid was child support for my son, I have to pay mortgage and all the other bill we had. I worked to jobs last year I lost my sec. job, now am having a hard time to paying all my bill. I like to refinance to lower my mortgage but I cannot I don’t know where my husband is. What I can do?

    • HowardIken

      You need to go ahead and file for divorce. Within the divorce case it is possible to get his name off the property.

  • and68

    My wife walked out on me and my two girls (15,17) a year ago (things had been bad for a couple of years) final divorce hearing is a month way. I’d started to see a lady a couple of months ago, wasn’t planning on it, just happened, figured ex had left me, she was the one who filed for divorce, but now found out I’ve had a private investigator following me recently, could this new friendship I’ve made be an issue ? because of all the drama going on with soon to be Ex, I’ve not brought my new friend home or to be around my girls, it’s been just evenings out etc, in fact my daughters don’t know about her. can this make any difference on the final custody agreement, in fact as of now my daughters don’t even want to be around mom, I make (ask them to go, but they only stay a little while before driving them selves home to me)

    • HowardIken

      As long as you have not done anything inappropriate around the girls you are OK.

  • lilme

    my wife left me when I came down with cancer, she served me with divorce papers in april and now wants 2 years back chils sipport that is when i got my cancer 2 yrs ago. I am waiting on disability, I have no income. I need a Lawyer but don’t have that much money…. any ideas

  • HowardIken

    All you need to do is communicate that she is terminated. It could be by email or letter.

  • angela messer hetzel

    My name is Angela messer, am need to do a divorce paper work but don’t nohow to go about it. It Ben 5 years now that we don’t live together. We have 4 kids together 2 live with him n 2 live with me. We don’t have any home or car.

  • bre

    Hello my name is Bre and I married in the Feb 1993 and spouse abandoned my 2 children and self in Nov. of 1999. he never paid anything. he received a huge settlement and gave us nothing. now he’s about to receive disability. i’m in the state of florida what all would i be entitled to. also he owns land

    • HowardIken

      You are definitely entitled to child support. The rest depends on a lot of specific facts.

  • denise

    I moved to florida 7 months ago from south caroline. my husband is still in south Carolina. I left because of physical and verbal abuse. he broke 2 bones in my foot. I would like to know how do I get a divorce in florida while he is living in our home in south Carolina?

    • HowardIken

      You are best off filing in SC if you want a share of that home.

  • Glenda

    Fiance’ recently found out he is still legally married after 28 years. He thought he was divorced, will he have to pay alimony to his soon to be ex-wife? (he is on disability). He would like to do a no-contest divorce; as she resides in California.

    • HowardIken

      I cannot advise on California law.

  • Pam Drake Smith

    I have told my husband of 20 years that I want a divorce and I want him to move out of the house. He refuses to leave. We have been married for 19 years have 4 children, 2 under 18. My parent’s own our home, so I can not leave. Is there any way to get him out of the house? There has been domestic violence in the past, but nothing physical lately.

    • HowardIken

      If he threatens you then an injunction filing will remove him. Otherwise there is no practical way, short of a judge’s order. You must file for divorce and seek an order at the appropriate time.

  • lost

    Ive been married almost 7 years. We have been living separately for 6 months. We have no children, no assets or debts together in fact i let her take everything material with her when we moved out and apart from one another. I am ready to move on but she does not want to divorce. What can I do, and how much money should I plan on paying for this?

    • HowardIken

      Either spouse has the absolute right to divorce in the State of Florida. Her consent or lack of consent does not matter. On cost – we offer free, no consultations.

  • Dilma

    Hello, I’m been separate since june 2005, I had a domestic violence case, I the time of the court I was very confiude with everything and I didn’t asked for the divorce because I husband told me not to do it in that time he’ll be in legal problems bla, bla, bla, I asked for the protection order and since that been separtate, I want to divorce know our daughters are 18 and 22 now, I never recived child support from him, even though we agree in court about mounthly amounth that I never recived from him, I want the divorce now but he leave in MD, what can I do? and how much a divorce cost in Florida? Thank you….

    • HowardIken

      We give free consultations and discuss costs at those meetings. Even if he moved you can still file for divorce where you live.

  • Luisa

    I have been married 11 years. My husband started a business a few years before we were married. All during our marriage, we have put the profit/loss on our joint tax return, thus, I reap the benefits or in most cases, I share in paying the additional taxes owed due to the profit of his business. Even though I am not part owner of this company, am I entitled to any portion of it upon divorce?

    • HowardIken

      Yes. Chances are there is some part of the business that will be considered marital ( and subject to division). This is not a simple area of Florida divorce law – property division. You will benefit from an attorney on this issue.

  • frank flores

    I’ve been married for 17 years, I file for divorce last June and I have done all the steps I needed to do that I know of. but my wife answer the petition but that’s it. she has not done her parenting class and she doesn’t want this to go thru as fast as possible also I did not get any paper work that she filed her response. We have two daughters together and she uses them against me she wont let me see them unless I do whatever she asks me for. isn’t there anything I can do to speed up the process or at least make her do what she needs to do to get this divorce going

    • HowardIken

      I realize you probably don’t want to hear this – but get an attorney. You are trying to do something complex without professional help.

      • frank

        well thanks I understand you are probably right and I wish I could afford one, well thanks anyways for the advice

        • HowardIken

          I do not pretend to know your situation. But most people can afford an attorney to sit down with them, review documents, and devise a strategy.

  • CC

    Hi. I got married on 9/10/1988. We separated in 1997 but the state of Florida has no legal separation status.Our final divorce papers were signed in 9/2000. Does that mean we were legally married till the final decree was issued?

    • HowardIken


  • SL

    my husband and I separated. I filed for divorce since he moved to another state. we own a home in florida which he is renting out and using that to pay mortgage (I could not afford to pay the amt) I can not serve him papers – do not have a address where he is living. How do I proceed. We had alot of debt, little assets (house under water), I want him to pay me for some of the debt he helped accum in my name, how do I get the courts to award me anything if he doesnt tell me his address

    • HowardIken

      You must use a background check service to find his address. Where there is significant assets or debt – it is important to get personal service.

      • sl

        little assets in savings, most is in TSP acct. which he took a loan out without my signature and they wont do anything about it. Debts are c/c and previous tsp loans and LOC. tried processor server and they told me couldnt help unless i knew address – dont have alot of extra money to spend alot on lawyers and investagations, have to save it for when i really need it for my home or to finalize divorce – any suggestions

  • Sunshine

    I have been married 35 yrs.and I wont a Divorce he abuses me and he is a Pastor I am disable now will I get the Home and Alimony.

    • HowardIken

      There is way too little info in your post to answer those questions. But in general, in a 35 year marriage, a claim for alimony may be strong.

  • Artis

    Now that I have filed for a divorce, will my existing spouse be able to claim married but separated on her income tax next year?

    • HowardIken

      Normally, yes.

  • linda

    My divorce was final January 30,2013. My ex had 13 months from the date to refinance the house in his name only or the house is to go up for sale on a fair market value. I can’t buy a home until this is settled. What are my next steps?

    • HowardIken

      You must file a motion to enforce under your original case number and schedule a short hearing.

  • seashell

    I want a divorce after 26 years of marriage, but my husband continues to remind me , that I have lung cancer and without him I would have NO money and NO health insurance. He has worked the same job for 24 years and receives a little over $2700. Bi- weekly. He has also stated that I can not use my visa for the divorce,.when it is in my name only. Please tell me what my chances of getting alimony? If I divorce him will I still be able to collect on his S.S. I have applied for disability.

  • sleeper

    my soon to be ex, has never answer the interrogatories. there has been no mandatory disclosure. yet the judge during a contempt for him to answer the interrogatories, denied it. This has been going on since 10/2014. my ex also is trying to get my mobile from me and my brother. The title is in our names. He allowed the mobile home to depreciate, and it’s worth, went from 45,000 to 8,000 due to neglect of household repair. also he took 7,000 of my money to hold onto for a car, and he spent it without my knowledge or consent. I work part-time, I am trying to get a lawyer in florida that would be pro-bono, or make payments that I could afford. I only make 600.00-700.00 a month.

  • JP

    I am currently married but I am filing for divorce in FL. My future ex is currently in SC. He stated that due to me moving back to fl 6 months ago with our son that if he files for divirce in SC i will be arrested for kidnapping my child by moving 2 states away. he has history of domestic violence and now he said he has change after probation and counseling. My question is: Can I file for divorce my self in fl due to how expensive it is to hire an attorney and 2 do I nd a restraining order so idon’t lose my kids?