There are only two (2) types of divorce in Florida, a dissolution of marriage and a simplified dissolution of marriage. So, what is the difference? Every couple seeking a divorce must file for a dissolution of marriage, you just have to determine which dissolution are you seeking.
A simplified dissolution of marriage is one in which you and your spouse have no minor children together and own no property or assets together. Don’t let the name fool you. You and your spouse may own many assets and parcels of real property together and still elect to file a simplified dissolution of marriage because you resolve all divorce matters and transfer all property before filing a divorce lawsuit.
If you and your spouse have been separated for years, and you separated bank accounts and transferred property prior to seeking a divorce, you can file for a simplified dissolution of marriage. The same is true if you and your spouse never owned any real property and never joined your finances or owned any assets together.
When you file a simplified dissolution of marriage, you and your spouse are joining together to file a petition for dissolution of marriage and both attesting that you have no assets, no real property and no children together. It is a quick process that allows couples with nothing for the Court to divide, to get through the legal process quickly. You and your spouse must both attend the final hearing as both of you are required to testify that you have no assets, liabilities, or children and are satisfied with your oral agreement.
The advantages of a simplified dissolution of marriage are numerous. First and foremost, you retain confidentiality regarding your financial condition because you are not required to conduct discovery in the same manner as a dissolution of marriage. Second, you and your spouse are electing to resolve your divorce issues prior to filing a lawsuit. That means both of you are committed to being honest with one another and to preserving your assets rather than litigating your issues and spending your assets on expensive litigation. Third, you are not letting the attorneys or the Court drive your divorce case. You and your spouse are in charge. Lastly, you can fast track your divorce because the judge does not need to review your settlement to determine whether any agreements you have made with your spouse are fair and equitable, you are testifying that you have no assets or liabilities together.
A dissolution of marriage is the type of lawsuit filed in the circuit court of the county you live in. In your lawsuit, you ask the court to equitably distribute your assets and liabilities, to determine a parenting plan and timesharing schedule for your minor children, and awarding alimony and child support. You may also be seeking an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.
If your spouse has hid or dissipated assets, you will likely need to file a dissolution of marriage action. Having your action filed with the court and having a judge looking over everyone’s shoulder will likely help you obtain documents and information you might need from your spouse that may not be forthcoming. Further, if you are prone to procrastination, there are deadlines that everyone must comply with, and you are required to take actions to move your case forward.
If you have minor children, you must file a dissolution of marriage. The court is required to make determinations about your children taking into consideration their best interests. There is no mechanism in a simplified dissolution of marriage for child issues to be resolved.
Just because you filed a dissolution of marriage action, does not mean you have a contested divorce. An uncontested divorce is one in which you and your spouse agree on how to divide your assets and liabilities, and resolved all issues involving your children. This can be done without expensive litigation if everyone is reasonable and honest. Most cases filed in the circuit court end up being uncontested actions because all issues are resolved prior to, during, or after mediation, requiring no judicial intervention or decision making. Once you have resolved your matter and reduced it to a written agreement, you will attend an uncontested final hearing in which you tell the judge that your marriage is irretrievably broken, that you resolved your issues, and ask the court to ratify your agreement. Only you or your spouse will be required to attend the uncontested final hearing, both of you are not required to attend. If you or your spouse is electing to restore a prior name, then that spouse will attend the final hearing.
It is always beneficial to you and your family for you and your spouse to resolve your matters without involving the judge. However, in certain circumstances, judicial intervention is required. For example, if your spouse is hiding or depleting assets, you may need the judge to enter orders preventing your spouse from continuing to engage in those behaviors. If your spouse refuses to provide financial support to you during the divorce process, you may need the judge to enter an order requiring him or her to maintain the status quo to ensure bills are paid, and to maintain the assets.
If your spouse is extremely unreasonable and will not settle your matter amicably or reasonably, you may need to have a trial. The judge will make the determination of how you and your spouse share your assets and liabilities and how your children share time between you and your spouse. This is the least efficient manner in which to resolve your divorce, but is sometimes unavoidable.