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Filing for Divorce without an Attorney

Filing for Divorce without an Attorney

Filing for divorce is often portrayed as a long legal matter with lawyers for both sides fighting in the courts. However, divorces can be conducted without attorneys involved as long as both parties are able to agree to the terms of the divorce.

Simplified Dissolution of Marriage

Florida divorce law provides a process called a 'Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.' Couples can use this to get a quick divorce, about 30 days from filing to finalization, as long as they have complete agreement on the terms of the divorce and it's uncontested. This does have some requirements that must be met, however. In addition to both parties agreeing to this process, the couple must not have any children under 18 or dependent children, the wife must not be pregnant, and no alimony can be involved. At least one of the people involved must have lived in Florida for the last six months, and both parties must agree fully to the terms of the divorce and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This process also eliminates both parties' rights to a trial and appeals.

Qualifications for Divorce

The first step is to make sure your marriage qualifies for divorce in Florida. The state is one of many that has removed fault as a necessary grounds for divorce. Instead, it must only be proved that the marriage is "irretrievably broken," though fault can still be used in the division of assets and assigning alimony if the divorce goes to court. In such a case, however, attorneys will need to be involved to guide you through the legal process. To keep attorneys and their fees from entering into the proceedings, both parties will have to agree the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. There must also be proof that the marriage actually exists to begin with, and that at least one party has lived in Florida for the past six months.

Forms You Need

Once the two sides have agreed to the divorce, paperwork must be filled out. The Florida State Courts provide all of the forms online, and you can find them here: http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/index.shtml#instruction

The forms can be tricky, and once they are entered into court they cannot be altered. You can get some assistance completing them without an attorney by enlisting the service of a paralegal. Without being an attorney, their fees will often be substantially less.

Court Procedure

Though you won't be having a trial, you will still need to appear in court before a judge. Also, if children are involved, you will be required to complete a Department of Children and Families approved parenting course. Be sure to take a Final Decree with you for the judge to sign. The judge will ensure the necessary paperwork has been completed within the guidelines of the law and may ask some basic questions about the information on the forms. However, the judge will not provide legal advice or provide a thorough auditing of the paperwork. Once the judge signs the Final Decree, take it to the circuit clerk to file it. You should also ask for a certified copy for each party to keep for your records.

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