Divorce FAQs

At Peppler Law P.A., we represent clients in Oviedo and throughout Seminole County in all types of family law cases. We are here to answer your questions and help you make an informed decision about your case.

Below is a list of common questions about divorce and our responses:

1) Is my marriage valid?

  • If you meet the legal requirements of being able to form an enforceable contract with someone (i.e. you are of age, you are not under the influence of drugs, etc.), you enter into a contract to marry, and you consummate the marriage, your marriage will likely be considered valid. Certain obvious exceptions exist, of course, such as when an individual tries to enter into an existing marriage while still married to another. A lawyer can give you a more complete explanation if you are concerned that your marriage may not be valid.

2) Is divorce easy?

  • The divorce process can be complicated or simple, based in large part on how you and your spouse interact. The more the two of you can agree upon, the easier (and less costly) it will be.

3) What is "Common Law Marriage"?

  • Florida does not recognize Common Law Marriage. It is a term which generally meant that if you lived with someone, considered yourself married and held yourself out to the world as a married couple, then you were considered married under the concept of "Common Law Marriage." To be considered married under this theory, you did not need to have gone through a wedding ceremony. If you were indeed married under this theory, you remained married until a court granted you a divorce. In Florida, this concept was eliminated in 1967.

4) Does the court have or need to be involved at all?

  • Yes. The court will have to either determine the issues, or, if all issues are agreed upon, the court will need to approve the final result. More importantly, only the court has the authority to grant you a divorce and thereby free each party to marry again.

5) What grounds do I need for a divorce?

  • In Florida the only ground is that the marriage is "irretrievably broken" (also known as the "no-fault" ground). This means that if one party has made up his or her mind that the marriage is over and demands a divorce, the court must grant the divorce.

6) Do I need to prove "fault"?

  • No. Fault is not an issue that is relevant to this part of marital law.

7) What is legal separation or separate maintenance?

  • In Florida the court may grant a decree of legal separation as opposed to a divorce but, except for not being free to remarry, it has the same requirements and results as a divorce.

8) What is a "no-fault" divorce?

  • To obtain a "no-fault" divorce (irretrievably broken), one party must simply prove that, to them, the marriage is over. This can be proven through sworn testimony of one party.

9) Do I need to live in the state of Florida to get a divorce here?

  • Yes, at least one spouse must be living in Florida and have lived in Florida for at least six months. What if we still live together when I file for divorce? This is not an issue in Florida; parties often live in the same house until it is sold, so long as they keep the peace.

10) How do I file for a divorce?

  • The person seeking the divorce (the "plaintiff" or "petitioner") must file a document in the appropriate circuit court. This document is called the "petition." The petition contains information concerning the marriage and a copy of the petition will be served on the other spouse (the "respondent") by a process server or sheriff of the appropriate county. Who files first is irrelevant to the divorce. The person who files first only gets to pay the higher filing fee.

11) Where do I file for divorce?

  • Generally, a complaint for divorce should be filed in the circuit court of where the parties last lived as husband and wife or, if the respondent no longer resides in the state of Florida, in the county of the petitioner's residence.

12) I just received a petition for dissolution of marriage from my spouse, now what?

  • Quickly contact and consult a family lawyer. You have 20 days to "answer" the petition in writing and to file a counter petition. The answer allows you to give "your side of the story" and to admit or deny each claim in the complaint.

13) Can I get the court to help me immediately?

  • Either spouse may request a temporary hearing where issues of child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, debts and possession of property may be resolved on a temporary basis until final resolution. The judge will issue a temporary order that applies only until the time of the final trial. The temporary order may also prohibit the transfer or selling of assets, or prevent one party from interfering with the other party, or from interfering with the party's children.

14) What if there is violence?

  • Call the police. Additionally, either a lawyer, or a social agency can assist a party in filing a lawsuit to prevent family violence. The court can immediately address issues such as temporary use of a home and restraining orders even if the parties are not married.

15) Will a judge or jury decide my case?

  • If parties are not able to resolve their issues by mutual agreement, questions of child custody, visitation and attorney's fees can only be determined by the judge (not a jury). Both spouses may introduce evidence by their own testimony and may also summon other witnesses to the final trial. The decision returned by a judge or jury is written into a court order that is binding upon both parties. At any temporary hearing, only the judge (not a jury) makes the decisions.

16) What about my children?

  • Typically, until a court ruling or agreement, married persons share custody. The judge will try to fashion a contact plan which is in the "best interests of the child." The judge will consider many factors including the age and sex of the child, and the ability of each parent to care for and nurture the child. In Florida even a child who has reached 14 or 16 years of age may not choose which parent he or she will live with. A child may speak to the judge, but the judge is not required to follow the child's wishes.

17) Can I share custody?

  • We do not use the term "custody" in Florida Law. In Florida there is a presumption of joint parenting. Neither party is deemed to have greater rights over the children than the other. Either the parents agree to a parenting plan that includes a contact schedule or the judge will impose one at trial.

18) I have heard about "custody classes." What are they?

  • The courts now require that parties to a case involving minor children attend a seminar or parenting class to help them cope with the ramifications of the case for children. You should check with the court system in your county to see what classes are available.

19) What are my (or the other person's) child support obligations?

  • In Florida, both parents can be required to provide assistance to their children until a child reaches the age of 18 years if not in high school, graduates from high school if eighteen (18) years or older, reaches the age of 19 years and is still in high school, dies, marries, is emancipated or joins the military, whichever event occurs first. Child support may also include health insurance, payment of medical and dental expenses, and life insurance. Child Support Guidelines are in effect in Florida. A calculation will need to be made to determine the appropriate amount of child support. The amount can vary based on various factors including time each parent spends with the child(ren), day care costs, and the cost of medical insurance for the children.

20) What about college?

  • The court cannot force parents to pay for college expenses. However, parents can agree between themselves to pay support beyond the age of 18 and/or to pay for college expenses.

21) What is alimony?

  • Alimony is a support payment by one spouse to another which, based upon various factors may be appropriate in a particular case. Alimony is generally not available to a spouse who caused the dissolution of the marriage by their adultery or desertion. Alimony may be for a limited time period or until the spouse receiving alimony dies or remarries, or may be paid in one lump sum. When determining the issue of alimony, the court reviews the need of the receiving party and the ability of the paying party to pay. Factors the court will consider in determining alimony include the length of the marriage; the ability of each party to earn a living, the income producing assets of each party; and the standard of living in longer term marriages.

22) What happens to "our" possessions now?

  • Marital property is generally all property acquired during the marriage, except for that property received by gift from a third party or by inheritance, or for personal injury awards. Each spouse is entitled to an "equitable" (which does not mean equal) share of all marital property acquired during the marriage. 50-50 is a basic starting point but other issues may affect the distribution. Contact a lawyer to discuss this matter if it is an issue in your situation.

23) How will the court orders be enforced?

  • Court orders for money can generally be enforced by garnishment, attachments of property or by a contempt action. Custody and visitation orders may be enforced in a variety of ways from contempt applications to warrants for wrongfully taking or withholding a child.

24) How long will the whole process take?

  • It depends. If you reach an agreement on all issues, the divorce is considered "uncontested," and may be granted 31 days after everything is filed (barring a change in Georgia law; check with an attorney as laws change and this time period is constantly subject to change). If disagreement exists regarding any matter involved in the divorce, the divorce will be obtained when the case reaches the court, which can take many months or even years depending on the court's schedule. Of course, if you reach an agreement while the case is pending, you can submit that to the court almost immediately and the case will be over and the divorce will be granted.

25) My spouse and I agree on all matters concerning the divorce, do we still need a lawyer?

  • Hiring a lawyer, even when parties are in agreement on all terms, will ensure that all matters which should be covered in a divorce are addressed. Acting without a lawyer could end up being a costly error, both to the parties and to their children. Also, a lawyer may only represent one party, so each party should consult with a lawyer of their own choosing. Even if you agree on all issues, you may not recognize or realize potential, even unintended pitfalls which a lawyer may help you avoid. However, Florida law does not require that you have a lawyer and if you can navigate the legal system and file the appropriate documents while following the applicable rules, it is possible to file and complete a divorce without lawyers involved. This is known as proceeding "pro se."

26) How much do lawyers cost?

  • As is the case with any professional, cost varies from law firm to law firm. Lawyers cannot charge a "contingency fee" in a divorce case, so they charge by the hour. Flat fees are rare, except when the case is truly "uncontested" and all terms have been agreed upon. For a contested case, most lawyers require a retainer which is an upfront payment which may serve either or both of two purposes: to ensure the lawyer is available and cannot accept employment by the opposing party and to serve as an advance payment for services to be rendered. Most lawyers then bill against that retainer and ask that it be replenished when it runs low or is depleted. Retainers can range from $2,000 (or less) to $25,000 (or more), depending on the complexity of the case and the law firm's usual practice. Hourly rates charged by lawyers and paralegals vary, but will usually be $110 per hour or more for paralegals and from $295 per hour for lawyer time.

27) Where can I find more information about divorce?

  • There are many resources available on line. You might consider visiting for information provided by the Florida Supreme Court or the local clerk of court. The best way to learn more about divorce or family law is to arrange a consultation with a family law attorney.

Every case is different. Our approach depends on a variety of factors. We will guide you through your case and help you understand your options. We have answers to your questions about divorce. Schedule a consultation with our attorney by calling 407-792-6697 or fill out our online form.