Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal termination of a marriage. In Florida, a divorce is known as “dissolution.” Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states commonly issue divorces because to force a couple to remain married would go against public policy.
“No-fault” and “fault” are the two kinds of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, such as Florida, no-fault is the only suitable justification for divorce, even if fault grounds exist within the marriage. Other states allow the people involved to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. The Cornell University Law School website, law.cornell.edu, gives a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in the United States.
The United States first adopted the notion of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all states currently permit some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, one another for the divorce. Some examples of grounds for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” In Florida, either spouse can obtain a no-fault divorce by claiming in divorce papers that irreconcilable differences have created a breakdown in the marriage. If both spouses are in agreement regarding the dissolution, they may stipulate, or state, in writing that a divorce should be granted.
If one of the spouses denies that the marriage has been irretrievably broken or if there are minor children involved, a Florida court may order that the parties receive therapy through a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or member of the clergy for up to three months.
Many states require a “cooling-off” period of separation for a certain period of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can commence. During this time, the couple is required to live separate from one another with the intent that the separation will be permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. In Florida, this waiting period is 20 days after the divorce petition is filed. The petitioner must have lived in Florida at least six months before filing for divorce.
Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. Florida allows fault divorces on the grounds of mental incapacity of one of the parties for a period of at least three years. For more information, visit findlaw.com.
In Florida, the dissolution process begins with one party filing a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the family division of the local circuit court. The other spouse is then served with divorce papers and given time to respond. If both parties are in agreement regarding the dissolution, it can usually be completed with a trial. For a complete background on the grounds for divorce in Florida, visit lawyers.com.
Divorce laws in general, as well as the specific grounds required for divorce vary widely across the United States. The American Bar Association provides a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Florida, can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of a Florida Divorce Settlement Agreement can also be seen on Free Legal Aid.