Filing for Divorce in Tampa, Florida: Step-by-Step Guide
Going through a divorce in Tampa can be a challenging and confusing time. So many questions arise around the Tampa divorce process and the paperwork required by Florida law.
However, you can confidently move through divorce with the correct information. We created this guide as a roadmap of what to expect when navigating a Tampa divorce.
If you are considering filing for divorce, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and Tampa marital law lawyers of All Family Law Group, P.A. online or call 813-672-1900 for a free consultation.
We are committed to providing you with the best representation possible. Se habla Español.
Let’s get started.
What You Need to Know Before Filing for Divorce in Tampa
When marriages end, getting divorced can be confusing, no matter where you live.
But if you reside in Florida and plan to file for divorce in Tampa, there are unique requirements and family law matters you need to be aware of.
A Tampa family law attorney can guide you through the process, but here are some key areas to keep in mind.
Florida’s No-Fault Divorce Law
Florida is a “no-fault divorce” state.
This means you don’t need to provide evidence that your spouse did something wrong when submitting divorce paperwork.
You only have to make a legal declaration that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” due to emotional or physical causes.
Florida Residency Requirements
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Florida has specific residency requirements before allowing couples access to its divorce courts. At least one spouse must have physically lived in the state for six consecutive months before filing.
This residency must be continuous and can be proven with documents such as a Florida driver’s license, voter registration, or utility bills, ensuring the state has jurisdiction over your divorce.
If you’re new to Tampa or bouncing between homes during separation, be sure to track residency carefully.
Get Finances and Documents in Order Beforehand
Before filing the paperwork to initiate divorce, it’s vital to organize your financial documents.
You’ll want to gather tax returns, income statements, property records, investment accounts, insurance documents, and anything related to assets and debts. If you have children, you should also have their relevant information available regarding custody, support needs, health records, and more.
Being organized from the start will make completing Florida divorce paperwork far smoother.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
You’ll also need to consider whether or not your Tampa divorce will be contested.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse agree on key issues upfront without court intervention. This process is much quicker than a contested divorce.
A contested divorce means you and your spouse cannot agree on key issues and must battle out your disagreements in court. A contested divorce takes longer and costs more in legal fees.
Photo by Annie Spratt
The financial split and decisions regarding any children are often the most stressful parts of ending a marriage.
Here is what to expect in these areas when filing for a Tampa divorce.
Understanding Equitable Distribution
Florida follows the principle of equitable distribution for dividing marital assets and debts.
This doesn’t necessarily mean equal division. Instead, the court assesses the length of the marriage, the economic circumstances of each party, and the contributions (including homemaking and childcare) made by each spouse to determine a fair division.
Alimony, or spousal support, is not a guarantee in every divorce. In Florida, it’s based on one spouse’s need for financial support and the other’s ability to pay.
Several types of alimony exist, including temporary, durational, rehabilitative, or permanent, depending on the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, and their financial resources.
Addressing Child Support and Custody
When it comes to child support, the primary focus is on the well-being of the children involved.
In a Tampa divorce, child support is determined based on both parent’s income and the children’s needs, including health insurance, education expenses, and day-to-day living costs.
Child custody arrangements also play a significant role in calculating support, taking into account the time each parent spends with the children.
Filing a comprehensive parenting plan is essential, outlining custody, visitation schedules, and support responsibilities. A Tampa child custody attorney can assist you with this process.
How to File for Divorce in Tampa: The Complete Process
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Now that you understand Florida’s divorce laws and residency requirements, it’s time to dive into the specifics of how to file.
Carefully follow these steps to ensure your Tampa divorce paperwork is air-tight.
Decide Where to File
You can start your Tampa divorce by filing paperwork with either the circuit court in the county where you or your spouse lives or where you last resided as a married couple.
For example if you live in Tampa, this means Hillsborough County Courthouse, which is located at 800 E Twiggs St #101, Tampa, FL 33602.
Complete the Petition
The initial divorce paperwork is called the Petition, officially requesting dissolution of marriage.
The Petition requires you to provide background like names, date/location of marriage, and the ages of any children. It also covers why you are seeking divorce and what you seek in terms of asset division, alimony, and child custody. The Petition itself is very simplistic and in general. Later the details to be resolved will come up through discovery and proposed marital settlement agreements and proposed parenting plans.
Therefore, you will want to have on hand evidence to back up residency claims. Also, you will need to compile financials, listing specific assets and debt to divide and their estimated values, as these will be needed in the future. You can also have a proposed parenting plan for minor children to be given to the other parent later in the proceeding. These will not be included in the actual Petition.
Fill Out Additional Forms
Along with filing the divorce Petition and subsequent to filing the Petition, you will need to fill out a significant number of additional forms depending on your particular situation.
There are different packets of forms for different scenarios, such as whether or not the couple agrees on all issues, whether they have minor children, and depending on the method of service.
These forms require financial disclosures like tax returns, pay stubs, property records, investment and retirement accounts, and insurance policies, and can be quite complicated.
Seeking help from a seasoned divorce attorney can help ensure that your divorce filing is handled correctly.
File at the County Courthouse
Once you’ve completed the forms, if you are working without an attorney you would normally submit them in person at the Hillsborough court clerk’s office, or the clerk’s office in the county where the case is filed.
You will need to pay the required court fees, which vary based on the county in which you file.
The Clerk will give you a case number and an official stamp on your petitions.
Next comes serving your spouse with your divorce petition.
Serving Your Spouse
When it comes to the formal divorce process in Tampa, serving your spouse with divorce paperwork is a critical step that officially starts the legal proceedings.
This process typically includes:
- Delivery by a Third Party: The divorce petition, financial affidavit, and summons must be delivered by someone over the age of 18 who is not you and is certified by the state to provide service. This ensures unbiased and proper service. Or the Sheriff’s Office can serve the paperwork.
- Spouse’s Response Time: Your spouse has 20 calendar days to respond after receiving the documents. Their response should address any agreements or disagreements with the information you’ve provided and outline their requests if they differ from yours.
- Filing an Affidavit of Service: You are required to file an Affidavit of Service with the court. This document formally declares that your spouse has been served correctly and is necessary to proceed with the divorce.
Follow the rules on serving your spouse carefully. Even minor technical errors like using the wrong process server, not having three copies available, or missing deadlines can invalidate your Petition and force you to start over, costing time and money.
The Tampa Divorce Court Process
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In Tampa, the court process for divorce differs notably between uncontested and contested cases.
Uncontested divorces, where both parties agree on all terms, typically proceed more smoothly, often bypassing many formal court procedures such as mediation and trial. The court mainly reviews and formalizes the mutual agreement and in most cases will not object to what the parties have decided.
For contested divorces, where disagreements exist, the process involves several distinct stages:
Attend Case Management Conference
The court will schedule a case management conference within 90 days of your filing in Hillsborough County. Note that not all counties or judge’s will require a case management conference. Furthermore, this applies even if your case is uncontested and it can often be used as the final hearing.
During this hearing, the judge reviews the case to ensure all legal procedures have been correctly followed and addresses any preliminary matters such as temporary financial support or urgent child custody issues.
Depending on the situation, the judge will also set a timeline for the proceedings, which might include mediation sessions or a trial.
Enter Mediation Phase
Next comes mediation, where you and your spouse meet with a trained mediator to settle as many areas of disagreement as possible before trial. If you and your spouse cannot otherwise come to an agreement between yourselves.
Topics range from dividing marital assets to child custody to determining alimony. In areas you cannot compromise, then the judge will decide.
Proceed to Trial For Unresolved Items
If mediation fails to resolve the disputes, the case proceeds to a trial. Here, each party presents its case, including evidence and arguments, on issues like asset division, child custody, and spousal support.
Trial length varies based on the number and complexity of the unresolved issues. Simpler cases may only take a few hours, while extensive marital property or custody conflicts can involve trial for several days.
Receive Final Judgment and Divorce Decree
Once all evidence is presented, the judge issues a final judgment, which resolves all contested issues. This may take several weeks to prepare.
This decree is legally binding and outlines the divorce terms, including asset distribution and child custody arrangements, etc.
Contact Our Divorce Attorneys in Tampa For Help Filing Your Divorce
A Tampa divorce involves many intricate steps and it may involve complex legal and financial decisions.
While this guide has aimed to provide an overview of what to expect when filing for dissolution of marriage in Tampa, Florida, working with an experienced Tampa divorce attorney at All Family Law Group, P.A. can prove invaluable.
Our lawyers have assisted hundreds of clients in understanding their rights and navigating each phase of a Tampa divorce. We help prepare your forms, ensure proper procedures are followed, represent your best interests in mediation and trial if disputes arise, and give you peace of mind through a difficult time.
If you are considering filing for divorce in Tampa, contact the Tampa divorce attorneys of All Family Law Group, P.A. online or call 813-672-1900 for a free consultation. Se habla Español.
We are committed to providing you with the best representation possible.