Know the Laws: Florida
UPDATED August 1, 2016
Basic information about divorce in Florida.
To file for divorce in Florida, one of the parties to the marriage must reside in the state for 6 months before the filing of the petition.*
* Fla. Stat. § 61.021
To get a divorce in Florida, you must have one of the following grounds (reasons):
1. The marriage is “irretrievably broken” (can never be fixed) or
2. One of the parties has been declared mentally incapacitated by a judge at least 3 years before filing for divorce.*
It is possible that the abuser can argue to the judge that the marriage is not irretrievably broken and ask the judge to order counseling or mediation before granting a divorce. If this were to happen, you could inform the judge about the domestic violence and point out to the court that the divorce is in everyone’s best interests. More often, mediation could be ordered to resolve issues of the divorce, not for reconciling the marriage. At that point, if you raise the issue of domestic violence, the judge could take steps to keep you safe (i.e., making sure the mediator is aware of the violence, putting you and the abuser won’t in separate rooms, etc.). Alternatively, the judge could agree that mediation is not appropriate in the situation.
* Fla. Stat. § 61.052
Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse and can be awarded when a divorce is granted.* (In addition, pendente lite alimony can be granted during a divorce proceeding.)** If you request alimony, the judge will decide if you have an actual need for alimony and if your spouse has the ability to pay it. The judge can order alimony for either an indefinite period of time, or s/he can order a time-limited award, as explained in What types of alimony are there?***
If the judge decides to grant you or your spouse alimony, the judge will consider certain factors to determine a fair amount to award. These factors include, but are not limited to:
In addition, the judge may order the spouse who is paying spousal support to keep a life insurance policy or secure assets to protect the ongoing payment of support.****
* Fla. Stat. § 61.08(1)
** Fla. Stat. § 61.071
*** Fla. Stat. § 61.08(2)
**** Fla. Stat. § 61.08(3)
Florida has different types of alimony. If the judge decides to grant alimony in your case, s/he must also decide which type is appropriate.
Bridge the gap alimony may be awarded to help you make a transition from being married to being single. This type of alimony is to assist you with specific short-term needs. The length of the alimony award cannot be longer than 2 years (but can end earlier than that if you get re-married or if you or your spouse dies). The amount of alimony or the length of time that it is paid cannot be modified by the judge.*
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to help you gain the ability to support yourself through:
This type of alimony will only be awarded if there is a specific and defined rehabilitative plan. It can be changed or ended when there is a significant change in circumstances, if you are not following the rehabilitative plan, or if you finish the rehabilitative plan.*1
Durational alimony can be awarded when permanent alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of this type of alimony is to give you financial assistance for a specific period of time if your marriage is considered to be a short-term or moderate-term marriage (up to 17 years), or if your marriage was a long-term marriage (17 years or more) but you have no need for permanent economic support. This type of alimony ends when you or your spouse dies, or if you get married. *2
Note: The judge can change or end the amount of alimony amount based on a significant change in circumstances. However, the length of time of the alimony award cannot be changed except under exceptional circumstances and cannot be longer than the length of your marriage.*3
A judge can grant permanent alimony to provide for your needs and necessities of life as they were established during your marriage if you lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities. The judge must believe that no other types of alimony (explained above) are fair and reasonable based on the circumstances. This type of alimony may be awarded:
Permanent alimony ends when you or your spouse dies, or when you get re-married.
Note: A judge can change or end an award if there is a significant change in circumstances or if the person receiving alimony enters into a “supportive relationship” with another person, such as a live-in boyfriend or girlfriend.*4 To read the legal definition of a supportive relationship, go to our FL Statutes page.
* Fla. Stat. § 61.08(5)
*1 Fla. Stat. § 61.08(6)
*2 Fla. Stat. § 61.08(4),(7)
*3 Fla. Stat. § 61.08(7)
*4 Fla. Stat. §§ 61.08(4),(8); 61.14(a),(b)
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
We hope the following links to outside sources may be helpful.
The Florida Courts website provides court forms that you may need if you wish to get a divorce in Florida.
In addition, the Florida Bar Association has a lot of information about divorce, including information on alimony and property division.
WomensLaw.org is unrelated to the above organizations and cannot vouch for the accuracy of their site. We provide these links for your information only.
WomensLaw.org thanks Suzanne Estrella, Managing Attorney at Florida Legal Services for her help in revising this information.