In Florida, when you file a petition for dissolution, there will be a filing fee. However, if you do not have the money to pay the filing fee, you may obtain an Application for Determination of Civil Indigent Status from the clerk, fill it out, and the clerk will determine whether you are eligible to have filing fees deferred.
To file for divorce in any state, you must satisfy the state’s residency requirements. In Florida, the person filing for divorce (i.e. the Petitioner) must have lived in Florida for 6 months prior to filing the petition for dissolution. (See Fla. Stat. § 61.021).
You must file your forms in the correct court. The original copies must be filed at the clerk of the circuit court in the county where you live. Don’t forget to keep a copy of the documents for your records.
The Florida Rules of Judicial Administration now require that all petitions, pleadings, and documents be filed electronically except in certain circumstances. Self-represented litigants may file petitions or other pleadings or documents electronically; however, they are not required to do so. If you choose to file your pleadings or other documents electronically, you must do so in accordance with Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.525, and you must follow the procedures of the judicial circuit in which you file. The rules and procedures should be carefully read and followed.
When one party files for divorce, the other party must be “served” with a copy of the document. This means that the other party is given proper notice of the pending action and any scheduled hearings. The documents that must be served are the divorce petition and the summons.
In Florida, the person filing for divorce (i.e. the petitioner) must serve the respondent through personal service. What this means is that the petitioner must give a copy of the petition for dissolution and summons to a deputy sheriff or private process server, who in turn, will serve the respondent. Personal service is required, unless constructive service is permitted by law.
After initial service of the original petition (the petition for dissolution), service of most other motions and documents may be made by regular U.S. mail, or hand delivery. However, service by certified mail is required at other times. The instructions on each family law form will advise you on the type of service required.
After being served with a petition or counterpetition, the other party has 20 days to file a response. If a response to a petition is not filed, the petitioner may file a motion for default. This means that you may proceed with your case and set a final hearing, and a judge will make a decision, even if the other party will not cooperate.
After being served, the respondent has 20 days to file an answer admitting or denying each of the allegations contained in the petition. In addition to an answer, the respondent may also file a counterpetition. In a counterpetition, the respondent may request the same or some other relief or action not requested by the petitioner. If the respondent files a counterpetition, the petitioner should then file an answer to counterpetition.