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Many people have heard about online divorce in Florida. However, does everyone understand what this means? Advertising campaigns of specialized services use high-profile slogans like “getting a divorce over the internet in 2 days is easy”, and yet, divorce lawyers still exist and earn good money. Lots of couples are still opting for lawsuits that take a year or more of litigation. Does this mean that online divorce is a scam, or do we just need more information about this divorce option? Let’s put everything in its place.
What Florida Family Law Says
Divorce laws are state-specific in the US. So we should always start from there. Despite the general tendency to amend and supplement regulations to simplify divorce proceedings and encourage peaceful divorces requiring less time and effort, Florida Statutes still provides a mandatory waiting period between the filing of the Petition for Dissolution and the final hearing. Thus, even if the parties have agreed on the terms of their separation, the spouses cannot go to the court hearing and obtain a divorce decree earlier than 20 days after the plaintiff files the petition. So, the minimum time a divorce in Florida may take is 21 days.
Along with it, in order to file a petition, the couple must meet the residency requirements of the state. To be eligible for divorce in Florida, at least one of the parties must reside within the state for six months before filing a divorce petition. So, for the spouses who do not yet meet this requirement, the six months turn into additional time that they have to wait, which cannot be ignored.
Any divorce proceeding in Florida, whether contested or not, must go according to this timeline. The rule of law, above all.
The steps which are mandatory for any divorce proceeding include:
- Defining the ground for divorce (though Florida is a pure no-fault state, and in most cases, “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” is pointed out as the formal cause of separation)
- Paying the filing fee at the moment the case is filed
- Executing the service process, which means serving the defendant of the case with divorce papers
- Attending a final court hearing
Online divorce, as well as any other popular divorce options like mediation, counseling, or collaborative divorce, must follow these essential stages established by the Florida Statute.
Here you need to see the difference between action and method. All the alternative dispute resolutions are the methods. They can help you to avoid court litigation and the contesting of your case. The divorce itself is the action. It is based on the laws and schedule provided by the law.
Simplify Your Case
So an online divorce in Florida does not mean getting a divorce without any interaction with the court. But does that mean this option is just a fake? Not at all.
Remember the method? Online divorce is a solution which helps to prepare for a divorce without an attorney.
In Florida, everyone is eligible to represent themselves before the court. In legal terms, it is called being a self-represented litigant. In contested divorce cases, this option may not be safe, since one spouse never knows whether the other has hired a qualified lawyer to defend their interests. Also, the issues being resolved in such proceedings are typically rather complicated for a person without any legal background. What people call “DIY divorce” is not recommended for complicated divorce cases.
Nevertheless, in an uncontested divorce, where the couple has reached an agreement on custody, finances, and property on their own, or a simple case with no children or big assets, the option of not using an attorney is very reasonable. So what does a simple divorce look like? What tasks do the parties have?
- They should prepare a settlement agreement and submit it with the court.
- The plaintiff should gather, fill out, and file all the required divorce documents and forms.
- The defendant can waive formal service.
- Both parties should appear in the court for a short hearing to obtain the divorce.
So, in an uncontested divorce, preparation is half the battle. But, unfortunately, it is a mistake to believe that completing legal documents is something easy. An uncontested divorce has its pitfalls too. And that is where online divorce comes into play.
How Online Divorce Really Can Help
Like with any type of service designed to save people money and time, there will be legitimate companies and there will be fraudulent companies looking to scam you out of money. To determine a scam online divorce service from a reliable company, you should carefully study its offers, not just headlines, and ads.
Trusted online divorce websites do not provide legal advice, emphasizing that they offer document preparation services. Typically, this means that the client logs into the site and provides information about their case peculiarities. This data allows the system to collect and complete all the required divorce forms and documents in a matter of days. The laws and requirements of a particular state must be taken into account, as well as the fact that some divorce forms vary even by county.
For many people, without legal background paperwork is not easy, so this essential step of the divorce process can take a lot of time. Any tiny mistake in the documents may lead to the court simply not approving the papers, and you will have to start the whole process anew. Some people hire a lawyer, even for their quite simple uncontested divorce, out of despair. Divorce lawyers charge so-called flat fees for an uncontested case. The flat fee is cheaper than hourly fees, but is still expensive. In Florida it is around $1500 on average.
Online divorce shows that a simpler divorce means a more affordable divorce. All the effort that the spouses make to negotiate, create an agreement, and avoid a conflicting and lengthy court process does pay off. Uncontested divorce can be fast and inexpensive. The purpose of online divorce companies is to take on all the paperwork issues, relieving their customers from worries about potential errors, inconsistencies, and omissions in forms.
By using an online divorce service, within a couple of days, the spouses will receive the completed divorce paperwork kit in accordance with the circumstances of their particular case, without even leaving home. Then, following state law, the plaintiff just needs to print, sign, notarize, and file the papers with the local court. Just like that, the main difficulties are already behind.
Online divorce is not a panacea for arranging a divorce without waiting periods or going to court at all. However, this affordable divorce option can really help to save a lot of time and effort. With an online divorce, you do not have to go to the Clerk’s Office to get the forms, you do not have to try to understand the state laws, and you do not need to overpay a lawyer to be sure that the court will approve the documents on the first try.