En Español
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or (TTY) 1-800-787-3224

Know the Laws: Florida

UPDATED April 13, 2017

Basic information about divorce in Florida.

back to topWhat are the residency requirements to file for 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

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce in Florida?

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

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topCan I get alimony? What factors will a judge consider?

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:

  • the standard of living during the marriage;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • the age, physical condition, and emotional condition of you and your spouse;
  • the financial resources of you and your spouse, including the distribution of marital and non-marital assets and debts;
  • the earning potential, educational levels, career levels, and the employability of you and your spouse;
  • if applicable, the time it would take for you or your spouse to gain the necessary education or training needed to find appropriate employment;
  • the contributions made by you or your spouse during the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, education, and career building of you or your spouse;
  • the responsibilities you or your spouse may have regarding any minor children from the marriage;
  • the tax treatment and consequences to you and your spouse of any alimony award;
  • all sources of available income to you and your spouse, including income available through investments; and
  • any other factor necessary for there to be fairness and justice between you and your spouse.***

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)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat types of alimony are there?

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

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
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to help you gain the ability to support yourself through:

  • redeveloping your previous skills or credentials; or
  • getting the education, training, or work experience you need to develop work skills or credentials.

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
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

Permanent Alimony
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:

  • when your marriage was a long-term marriage (17 years or more);
  • if your marriage was a moderate-term marriage (between 7 and 17 years) and such an award is appropriate based upon clear and convincing evidence;
  • if your marriage was a short-term marriage (less than 7 years) but there are exceptional circumstances.

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)

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?

While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:

  • First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state.
  • Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
  • Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
  •  Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, then he will have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” If he contests it, then you will have a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, then he should sign the papers and send them back to you. If your spouse agrees with everything and signs the papers, this is called a “simplified divorce” BUT it is only available if you do not have children with your spouse. If your spouse does not sign the papers for a simplified divorce, you would have to file a regular petition for dissolution of marriage. If your spouse doesn’t respond to those papers after being properly served, you can get a divorce “by default.”
  • Fifth, if there is property that you need divided or if you need financial support from your spouse, then you will have to work that out either in an out-of-court settlement or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.

Did you find this information helpful?

back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce?

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.

Did you find this information helpful?

WomensLaw.org thanks Suzanne Estrella, Managing Attorney at Florida Legal Services for her help in revising this information.

back to top