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Florida Divorce Law: Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce?

Florida's No Separation Period Required Before Divorce

Going through a divorce is an incredibly painful experience that shakes you to your core. It cuts through the very fabric of your life, leaving you feeling lost and adrift in a sea of uncertainty. Divorce represents a profound loss that impacts every aspect of your being.  It shatters the comforting routines you once took for granted, the hopes and dreams you had for the future, and even your sense of self-identity. The decision to end a marriage is never an easy one. However, if you find yourself at this crossroads, it’s crucial to be well-informed about the process and what to consider before filing for divorce in our state. 

Florida does not require a legal separation period before filing for divorce. Couples can file as soon as they decide to end the marriage. In this blog, I will try to explain all the questions that come to mind regarding the seperation Policy of Florida before Divorce.

Florida's No Separation Period Required Before Divorce

Unlike many other states, Florida does not require a legally mandated separation period before a couple can file for divorce. As a “no-fault” divorce state, Florida allows spouses to initiate dissolution of marriage proceedings as soon as they make the decision to end their marital union, regardless of how long they have been physically separated.

This no-separation rule provides an important option for couples who have made the difficult choice to divorce. It allows them to begin the legal process immediately, without having to go through a prolonged period of official separation first. For some spouses, this can provide financial and emotional closure more quickly.

However, it’s important to note that while legal separation is not required in Florida, many couples do choose to live apart during the divorce proceedings. An informal separation period can allow each person time and space to adjust to the new reality. It can also make issues like child custody, living arrangements, and asset division more straightforward to navigate initially.

Ultimately, whether or not a separating couple lives apart before filing is a personal decision based on their unique situation and readiness to divorce. Florida simply removes the legal obligation to officially separate first, providing more flexibility compared to other states’ divorce laws.

The key criterion is that the marriage must be categorized as irretrievably broken, meaning there is no prospect of reconciliation between the spouses. Once that conclusion is reached, Florida allows couples to immediately initiate divorce proceedings through the court system, separation period or not. This streamlined process empowers spouses to take the next official step on their own timelines.



 

Family conflict. Unhappy african couple sit separate on couch upset thinking of breakup or divorce

Grounds for Divorce in Florida

As a no-fault divorce state, Florida has simple and straightforward grounds under which a divorce may be granted. Spouses do not need to prove marital misconduct such as adultery, abandonment, or cruelty on the part of their partner.

There are only two grounds needed for the court to proceed with a dissolution of marriage in Florida:

  1. The marriage is irretrievably broken This is the most common ground cited. It simply means that the marriage has been irreparably damaged and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation between the spouses. Personal unhappiness, irreconcilable differences, or a fundamental breakdown of the marriage qualify under this ground.
  2. One spouse is mentally incapacitated If one of the spouses has been adjudged mentally incapacitated for a period of at least 3 years, this can serve as a ground for divorce in Florida as well. This extends to cases of mental illness that render the spouse incapable of participating in the marriage relationship.

    Benefits of No-fault Approach

    Beyond establishing that the marriage meets one of these two grounds, no other evidence or fault admissions are required from either spouse. The no-fault approach in Florida aims to simplify and streamline the divorce process.

    Couples are not forced to re-litigate past marital issues or misconduct, which can make the proceedings less adversarial in nature. As long as the marriage is definitively irreparable or mental incapacity is present, the court can grant the divorce petition based solely on those grounds.

    This straightforward approach is intended to reduce conflict and contention between spouses, while still allowing them to legally dissolve an untenable marriage through the court system. The focus is on the current irretrievable breakdown, not assigning blame.

    Residency Requirements to File in Florida

    While no formal separation period is mandated, there are certain residency criteria that must be met in order to file for divorce in Florida. The state has established residency rules to ensure its courts have proper legal jurisdiction over the divorcing parties.

    For a divorce case to proceed through the Florida court system, at least one of the spouses must demonstrate they have been a bona fide resident and legal resident of Florida for at least 6 consecutive months immediately prior to filing the divorce petition. This 6-month residency can be proven in several ways:

    Proving Florida Residency

    • A valid Florida driver’s license or state ID showing the applicable issuance date

    • Florida voter’s registration records

    • Testimony from an unrelated third-party witness who can attest to the filer’s residency

    • Other documents like a residential lease, utility bills, etc. showing a Florida address

    If neither spouse meets the 6-month residency requirement to file in Florida, they have a couple of potential options:

    Options for Non-Florida Residents

    • Research the residency rules for the state(s) where one of them does qualify as a resident and file for divorce in that state’s courts instead

    • If only one spouse is a Florida resident, that spouse can solely initiate the divorce proceedings in Florida’s courts

     

    It’s important to properly establish residency, as Florida courts will not have legal authority to issue binding divorce orders without it. Failure to meet the residency rules could result in the dismissal of the divorce case.

     

    Ultimately, the residency laws aim to prevent Florida’s already busy court system from becoming over-burdened with divorce cases that lack any substantive connections to the state. As long as at least one spouse can demonstrate proper Florida residency per the 6-month rule, then the divorce filing can proceed through the state’s judicial system in an orderly fashion.

     

The Divorce Timeline in Florida

Wooden judge hammer with alarm clock on black background

Even after all the proper paperwork is filed to initiate divorce proceedings in Florida, the legal process cannot be finalized immediately. The state imposes a mandatory 20-day waiting period that must elapse before a judge can grant a final decree dissolving the marriage.

This 20-day period, which starts on the date the divorce petition is served to the non-filing spouse, is meant to provide one last window for spouses to reconcile if desired. However, in most cases it simply operates as a built-in cooling off period required by Florida divorce laws.

While 20 days is the minimum timeframe written into the statutes, the total length of a divorce case often extends well beyond that depending on the specific circumstances involved:

 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

If the divorce is uncontested, meaning the spouses can agree on all terms like asset division and spousal support, the case can proceed more quickly through the court system after the 20 days. Contested divorces with disputes over unresolved issues will take significantly longer to work through legal negotiations or a trial.

Children and Custody Decisions

For divorces involving minor children, the process becomes more complex and lengthier. Custody, visitation, and child support matters must all be determined through the courts, extending the timeline. A child’s best interests take priority.

Division of Marital Property/Assets

Equitable distribution of marital assets like the family home, investment accounts, businesses, etc. can also drastically increase the divorce duration. This is especially true for high net-worth couples with substantial or complicated asset portfolios to divide.

 

Conclusion

Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult and emotionally draining experiences someone can face. But in Florida, the legal process itself does not have to be overly complicated or drawn out unnecessarily.

By not requiring a prolonged separation period and having straightforward “no-fault” grounds for divorce, Florida aims to simplify the proceedings as much as possible. Spouses can file for dissolution of their marriage relatively quickly once they determine the relationship is irretrievably broken.

Divorce Attorney in Florida

Are you going through a divorce in Florida and seeking an experienced, dedicated legal team to guide you through this difficult transition? Look no further than The Law Office of KWG Family Legal & Mediation Services. Our firm is a comprehensive one-stop shop for all your family law needs, with divorce being one of our core practice areas. From the initial filing to negotiating settlements on matters like asset division, child custody, and spousal support, our seasoned divorce attorneys will tirelessly advocate for your rights every step of the way. Learn more about our divorce services.

For additional information, check out our FAQ page and explore more about our family mediation services. If you need assistance with wills and trusts, visit our wills and trusts page. Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your case.

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