“$99 Fast Florida Divorce”, “Florida Online Divorce – Quick & Simple Filing”, “Online Divorce in Florida | Get Cheap FL Divorce papers (24/7)” “The Original Online Divorce℠”. If you are interested in filing for divorce online in Florida without the help of an experienced family law attorney, there are no shortages of businesses willing to help you facilitate it. A simple Google search brings up dozens of ads and organic listings for the service. However, the right question is not “can you?” but “should you?”. There are significant risks involved in getting an online divorce without professional legal guidance, even in what may seem to be the simplest of circumstances. Here is what you need to know about online divorce in Florida.
Is Online Divorce Legal in Florida?
Yes, online divorce or “dissolution of marriage” as it is legally referred to in Florida, is legal. However, it is neither as simple nor easy as you may be led to believe. There are a few different kinds of divorces and each has its own set of legal requirements, forms, processing times and risk considerations.
Two Ways to File for Online Divorce in Florida
Depending upon the type of divorce is being pursued, Floridians have two options for filing for a dissolution of marriage online. The Florida court system has an e-filing portal where divorce papers can be filed online without having to go to family law court. No-court divorce hearings are another option. The appeal for would-be users is that these can sometimes be completed within 30 days for the simplest divorces.
Three Types of Divorce in Florida and What You Should Know About Online Divorce for Each
There are three different kinds of divorces in Florida. Each has its own set of criteria, making some more easily accomplished online than others. In every case, you should always first make sure that you qualify for the type of divorce you are seeking.
All online Florida divorce cases must meet the following minimum requirements:
- Agreement by both spouses that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.
- One spouse must have resided in Florida for the preceding six months.
- If a couple has children, they are required to take a parenting course prior to filing. This is intended to educate parents about their legal responsibilities to their children during a divorce.
Additional requirements and other factors you should know about the three specific kinds of divorce in Florida, include:
- Simplified Dissolution of Marriage – This is the simplest, quickest way to end a marriage online, often within 30 days. To qualify for a simplified dissolution, in addition to meeting the minimum requirements listed above, a married couple must also:
- Have no minor or dependent children
- Agree on how all property, assets and debts will be divided
- Neither party can be seeking alimony
What you should know: This process also eliminates both parties’ rights to a trial and appeals. This is a significant risk factor that should not be taken lightly. New information could come to light post filing prompting a reconsideration of asset value, debt responsibility or other factors regarding the marriage, and what is fair or unfair for both parties.
- Uncontested Regular Dissolution of Marriage – For married couples who desire to file for a simplified dissolution of marriage but do not meet the qualifications due to factors like having dependent children, an uncontested regular dissolution of marriage is a possibility but the stakes are raised. In addition to meeting the basic minimum requirements, a married couple must also:
- Be in agreement on every aspect of the divorce, including:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Property division
- Spouses must let the court know where they stand in each area, in writing
What you should know: It goes without saying that in order to file for an uncontested dissolution of marriage, you must be in alignment with your spouse in every area, without dispute – Property, assets, debts and other financial considerations, children, time-sharing, all of it.
Assuming you understand the risks of handling these critical elements yourself, potentially leaving yourself unprotected, you still have to order the online forms and fill them out yourself. This is not an easy task and can often take weeks to accomplish, even when spouses believe themselves to be in agreement in every area. You must understand which documents and responses are mandatory, and which ones may be required additionally for your case. Children add to this list.
Not all answers are legally acceptable and many questions leave significant room for interpretation requiring research into confusing terms and phrases.
You must verify the legality of the forms you order. Florida state laws are constantly changing and in fact, are undergoing significant change, right now. As a result, the forms on many websites may be out-of-date. If you use the wrong ones, fill out the forms properly or answer correctly, you run the risk of rejection from the court wasting a significant amount of time, energy and effort.
- Contested Regular Dissolution of Marriage – Of course, as is often the case in a divorce, many spouses are unable to come to an agreement on the many various terms of the dissolution. If this is the case, then you have no choice but to go through a contested divorce. In such a situation, you never want to navigate this process alone, without the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney to protect all the rights of you and your family. There is simply too much at stake with both your financial future and more importantly, your family.
Divorces are rarely simple affairs, legally or emotionally. No one enjoys them and most wish to conclude them as simply and quickly as possible. That is the promise and lure of online divorce. But, take it from deeply experienced family law attorneys, who have spent years successfully handling hundreds of dissolution cases, they can be complex and challenging in many ways. When your future and your children’s future are involved, trying to do it yourself online may be the biggest mistake you’ll ever make!
If you need assistance with a divorce, contact the family law attorneys at Parra Harris Law. We are deeply experienced in matters of contested and uncontested divorce, custody, and other complex areas of family law. Call us at (904) 900-1617 or email us at [email protected].