Broward County Divorce Process
A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting a Divorce in Broward County
Even a seemingly simple divorce isn’t easy for the couple going through it. And the farther away you and your spouse are from an agreement on the terms of the divorce, the longer and more confusing the whole process can be.
To simplify a complex divorce process, we’ve assembled this basic step-by-step guide to getting a divorce in Broward County.
First, You’ll Need to Determine Which Type of Divorce You’re Filing
If you’re the one submitting a petition for the dissolution of your marriage – otherwise known as a divorce – you’ll need to understand which type you’re filing.
There are four types of dissolution of marriages recognized in Broward County.
- Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
- Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children
- Dissolution of Marriage with No Children
- Dissolution of Marriage with No Children and No Property
Each type of divorce has its own requirements and procedures. To determine which type of divorce to file, start by reading “What to Know Before Filing for Divorce in Broward County.”
Note: You must have a Parenting Plan if there are minor children. The Parenting Plan must be agreed to by the parents and approved by the Judge. If you cannot agree, the court will establish a Parenting Plan. Learn more here.
Once You’re Ready to File, Here’s Each Step to Take Along the Way
Step 1: Submit Your Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage with the Court
In order to get the filing process started, you’ll first need to petition for your divorce. A petition is simply a written request of divorce that you’ll make by filling out paperwork and filing it with the court.
The time-consuming aspect of this step is all of the information and documentation you’ll need to gather to include with the petition.
- The last 3-5 years of tax returns
- Several years-worth of bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Cancelled checks
- Mortgage statements
- Deed to your home
- Records of property ownership
- Car title
- Business records if you own a business
- Paperwork for anything else of value
If you’re not working with a Florida divorce lawyer, you can get all of the proper forms and file your petition through the Broward County Clerk of Court’s Self-Service Center.There is a fee for filing dissolution of marriage petition in Broward County. Fees include:
|Service Charge to Use the Online Center||$20|
|Court Filing Fee for Dissolution of Marriage||$409|
|Court Insurance Fee for a Summons, per Defendant||$10|
Here’s a full list of Broward County Filing Fees Related to the Dissolution of Marriage.
Step 2: Serve the Papers to Your Spouse
In order to comply with the law, the Petition must be served on your spouse. In simple terms, your spouse has to be handed a copy of the petition. They have 20 days after being served with the Petition For Dissolution of Marriage to file an answer. In their answer, your spouse will either admit or deny the allegations in the petition.
The respondent, the spouse who’s receiving the petition, can decide to counterpetition. This means your spouse has claims against you and is asking for relief from the Court or some other action taken. If this occurs, you have 20 days to file an answer to the counterpetition (see Counterpetition Form 12.903(d)).
If you serve a petition to your spouse and they don’t respond within 20 days, they’re in default. This means the court can consider your petition without your spouse’s input and even make a decision about the case if they don’t cooperate.
Step 3: Mandatory Financial Disclosure
In Florida, the law mandates that you and your spouse send one another a financial disclosure. This makes sure there’s complete financial transparency and everyone is aware of the whole value of assets, liabilities, income and expenses of each spouse.
To complete the disclosure of your financials – called a Financial Affidavit – complete either one of the two forms. Form 12.902(b) is for individuals with a gross annual income of under $50,000. Form 12.902(c) is for individuals with a gross annual income of $50,000 or more.
- Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(b) Family Law Financial Affidavit
- Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c) Family Law Financial Affidavit
Just like in the petition you submitted, be prepared to show copies of your tax returns, bank statements, retirement accounts, pay stubs and potentially other documents.
There’s no getting around a financial affidavit. It’s required by both parties to obtain a divorce in Broward County. If you believe your spouse’s affidavit is inaccurate, you can file a Motion to Compel and argue to the Judge why you believe the information is false.
Note: With a simplified dissolution, financial information may be requested by either party, but disclosing financial information is not required.
Step 4: Discovery
Discovery means just that – you and your spouse both have the opportunity to ‘discover’ and obtain information from the other, or witnesses, to support your case. This step in the process can involve interrogatories, requests for admissions, and depositions.
In a deposition, you or your attorney can ask the deposed witness questions to discover new information for your case that you didn’t already have. You can also subpoena records, which means you request certain documents be produced for your review.
Step 5: Negotiation
While not required, negotiation is encouraged. Why? In some dissolution of marriage cases, negotiating for the terms you want and deserve is the only way to get the result you’re looking for. It can also speed up the divorce process and end up saving you money if your negotiations are successful.
Step 6: Mediation
In Broward County, couples are required to try to come to an agreement by going through a mediation process (a formal negotiation process). It’s only after an unsuccessful mediation that a divorce case will be decided by a Judge.
During mediation, you and your divorce lawyer meet with your spouse, your spouse’s lawyer, and a third-party mediator who’s approved by the Florida Supreme Court. Together, you’ll attempt to hash out an agreement that everyone is willing to accept. If you’re successful, the agreement is written and signed by you, your spouse and the attorneys (if the attorneys are at the mediation).
If you and your spouse have minor children together, this is also where you’ll negotiate and hopefully come to an agreement on your parenting plan. Florida requires that all divorce cases involving minor or dependent children include a parenting plan.
Use this Approved Family Law Parenting Plan Form 12.995(a) to develop a plan with your spouse.
If you can’t come to an agreement, then your case heads to a final hearing. When this happens, nothing said during mediation is allowed to impact the hearing or any decisions the judge makes.
Step 7: Case Management Conference*
At some point during the negotiation and mediation processes, you’ll likely attend what’s called a case management conference. The conference should be scheduled soon after your petition is filed and set by court order within 60-90 days of filing for a standard dissolution of marriage case.
The conference is normally set by the judge. During the conference, the judge will hear any outstanding motions, ask questions about the status of the case, and likely ask about information learned during the discovery phase. It’s also during this time that the judge typically sets the case for trial.
More than anything, the judge uses a case management conference to determine what he or she can do to move the case along, especially if it’s a case that’s shown little activity.
*This step is not required in a simplified divorce.
Step 8: Final Hearing OR Divorce Trial
This next step is a ‘Choose Your Own Divorce Adventure’ of sorts. If your mediation is successful, you proceed to your final hearing. Here, the judge reviews the agreement and signs the final order making you officially divorced.
If mediation does not produce an agreement, you proceed to a divorce trial. The results of the trial will determine the terms of any child custody, child support, alimony, property division, and all other contested terms of the divorce.
After the judge makes his or her decision on all terms, they sign the final dissolution of marriage order and you are legally divorced.
Contact us today for a free family law case evaluation. We’ll listen to your case and explain your rights. When you’re ready to work with an experienced Florida divorce lawyer, like Larry Schott, to help you get a divorce in Broward County, please fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302.