How to Finalize a Divorce With Children by Default in Florida

By Danielle Murray

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Divorce is known as "dissolution of marriage" in Florida. The procedure doesn't differ much if minor children are involved, but additional filings are required. It changes more significantly if you must finalize the proceedings by default.

Prepare your general dissolution documents. They include your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Notice of Social Security Number, and a Notice of Confidential Information in Filing. Your petition tells the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken, the only available divorce ground in this state other than mental incapacity. It also lists your requests such as child support, alimony and property division. The Notice of Social Security Number provides your Social Security number, as well as that of each of your children. The Notice of Confidential Information in Filing alerts the court clerk that Social Security numbers are included in your filing and may need to be redacted.

Prepare your child-specific documents. These include the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act affidavit and a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. The UCCJEA affidavit lists the names and birth dates of each of your children, as well as where and with whom each has lived with for the past five years. The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet is required if you are requesting child support. It calculates an appropriate amount of child support based on parents' incomes and other factors, and it must be filed at or before any final hearing that addresses child support issues.

Take your documents to the court for filing, along with four copies of a summons form. The clerk will file a copy of your paperwork and sign each copy of the summons, keeping one for the court file. Attach one summons to a copy of the dissolution documents and send this paperwork and one additional copy of the summons to a process server for service on your spouse.

File the Return of Service with the court. This is an affidavit signed by the process server, indicating the date and time he delivered your divorce papers to your spouse. The process server should send this to you after he's completed service. Your spouse has 20 days from the date of service to respond to your petition by filing answering documents with the court.

Prepare and file a Motion for Default with the Clerk if your spouse doesn't respond to your petition within 20 days. Also send a Default for the Clerk to sign. The Clerk will issue the default without a hearing if your motion is legally sufficient. The default allows you to move forward with a final hearing.

Request a final hearing date from the court once the Clerk has signed the Default. You can call the court to request hearing times. When you have the date, time and place of hearing, file a Notice of Hearing with the court and send a copy of the notice to your spouse.

Prepare a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children and take it with you to your final hearing. You're only required to fill in the case information at the top of the form. Do not check any boxes or fill in any other information; the judge will do so as he makes decisions regarding your case. This document will detail the terms of your dissolution, as well as custody of your children and child support, and it is final after the judge signs it. Make sure you get a copy of the final judgment because it serves as official proof of your divorce.

Attend the final hearing. The judge may grant you a judgment terminating your marriage, if your spouse has not responded to your petition. A default means that your divorce is uncontested, so you would typically get the things you asked for in your petition for dissolution. Because you have children, however, the judge may not grant all of your requests right away. He may put the proceedings on hold for a period of time to allow for counseling, reconciliation, any other procedures he feels are in the best interest of the children. The judge will tell you what to do next if he does not immediately grant your dissolution.

Items you will need

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

  • Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit

  • Notice of Social Security Number

  • Notice of Confidential Information in Filing

  • Summons

  • Motion for Default

  • Notice of Hearing

  • Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage with Dependent or Minor Children