In Florida, the legal procedure for ending a marriage is referred to as “dissolution of marriage.” This term, derived from the law of corporations and partnerships, replaces the common- law concept of “divorce”, which was a complaint based on the alleged fault of one party. Florida has eliminated fault as a requirement for ending a marriage. The petitioning party is only required to allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Either spouse can file for dissolution. It is necessary to establish the existence of a marriage, with one party being a Florida resident for at least six months prior to filing the petition.

The fault of either party may be taken into consideration when determining matters whether alimony should be paid from one spouse to the other, for example because one spouse spent significant marital assets financing their extramarital affair. The court may also award one spouse more of the marital assets and debts in order to compensate that spouse for the other spouse’s expenditures of marital assets on their affair. The fault of one spouse may also be used as a factor in establishing the parenting plan for the minor children if that spouse’s conduct negatively affects the best interests of the children.

Parenting & Child Support

Regarding parental responsibility, the court will either approve or create a Parenting Plan that outlines the daily tasks of child-care, the schedule for time-sharing, and decision-making authority concerning healthcare, education, and other related activities. The plan may also specify the use of technology for communication between parents and children. Parents can agree on a Parenting Plan and submit it to the court for approval. If the parents are unable to agree, the court will rule on these issues after a trial. Florida’s public policy strongly encourages parents to avoid litigation of these issues whenever possible, so mediation is mandatory in most cases before a case can be set for trial.

Both parents have the responsibility to financially support their children based on their respective incomes and the child’s needs. Normally, the obligation to support a child ceases when they reach the age of 18, get married, become emancipated, join the armed forces, or pass away.

Parenting Class

All parties to a dissolution of marriage proceeding with minor children or a paternity action that involves issues of parental responsibility shall complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course before the entry by the court of a Final judgment

Parents who are separating or divorcing are more likely to receive maximum benefit from a program if they attend such program at the earliest stages of their dispute, before extensive litigation occurs and adversarial positions are assumed or intensified.

Marital Assets & Liabilities

Dividing marital assets and liabilities can be one of the most challenging and intricate aspects of dissolution of marriage. Assets encompass a wide range of items such as cars, houses, retirement benefits (such as pensions and 401(k) plans), business interests, cash, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and other valuable possessions. Common liabilities consist of mortgages, car loans, credit card accounts, and any other financial obligations owed to third parties.

Assets and liabilities are characterized as either non-marital or marital in dissolution actions.

Non-marital assets typically are assets owned by either spouse prior to the marriage, or property acquired during the marriage through gift or inheritance. These assets are generally awarded to the party who owned the asset, but the court does have the discretion to award the non-marital asset of one party to the other party in order to do equity. A non-marital liability is typically one incurred by that spouse prior to the marriage. If the parties have a separate property agreement, they each have their own liabilities, unless they agree otherwise in writing to incur a liability together. Many parties unwittingly convert non-marital assets into marital assets by, for example, depositing an inheritance fund into a joint banking account.

Most assets and liabilities acquired or incurred during the course of the marriage are considered marital and subject to equitable distribution.

There is a statutory presumption in Florida that all marital assets and liabilities should be divided equally. The court does have the discretion to award an unequal distribution of marital assets and liabilities in order to create equity between the parties.


In order for the court to award alimony, the party seeking alimony has the burden of proving his or her need and the other party’s ability to pay. Once the requesting spouse has established both a need and ability to pay, the court must carefully consider all relevant factors to determine the appropriate type and amount of alimony to be awarded.

There are four different types of alimony the court may consider:

Temporary: This type of support is granted during the dissolution process, which can often be lengthy. It aims to assist one spouse in meeting their financial obligations while the dissolution is pending.

Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to provide support to a party in making the transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony assists a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the obligee. The length of an award of bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed 2 years.

Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. The length of an award of rehabilitative alimony may not exceed 5 years.

Durational alimony may be awarded to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time. An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the former spouse receiving payments. Durational alimony may not be awarded following a marriage lasting less than 3 years.

When determining alimony, it is presumed that a marriage of less than 7 years is considered short-term, a marriage of more than 7 years but less than 17 years is considered moderate-term, and a marriage of 17 years or more is considered long-term. The duration of a marriage is calculated from the date of marriage until the date of filing an action for dissolution of marriage.