Divorce can be an emotion-filled and stressful process; there is no exception for Florida divorces. Some individuals can use the divorce process to punish or take out revenge on their spouse.
Therefore, Florida has strict rules and guidelines when serving divorce papers. These are in place to ensure that the respondent’s spouse is notified properly without being fooled or given misinformation.
Both parties in a pending divorce must understand the laws surrounding divorce in Florida so that they know what to expect and don’t break any laws. If any rules surrounding the divorce process are violated, the case may be thrown out of court.
Process for Serving Divorce Papers
According to Florida’s Statute, Chapter 48 states all the rules that specifically relate to how divorce papers must be served when a divorce is initiated.
The Rules for Serving Divorce Papers in Florida:
- It is the Sheriff’s duty where the respondent lives to serve divorce papers on the respondent’s spouse (also referred to as the defendant).
- The Sheriff can also designate other people to serve on their behalf as long as they are certified to serve the divorce papers.
- Divorce initiation papers cannot be left in the respondent’s mailbox. They must be served in person, or a copy can be left at the respondent’s house.
- Petitioners cannot serve divorce papers on their spouses even if they still live in the same house.
- The Sheriff or their designated proxy can serve divorce papers at the respondent’s workplace. When this happens, the server of papers must contact the employer and notify them that they attempted to complete a request to serve divorce papers. If the employer does not comply, they could face a $1,000 fine for failure to comply.
- It is against the law to serve divorce papers on Sundays. The service will be declared void if the divorce papers are served on Sunday.
- When the respondent spouse lives out of state, the petitioner and server must follow the rules for serving divorce in their respective state.
- The certified individual serving divorce papers can leave copies of the divorce papers in the respondent’s mailbox if they continuously try to elude being served.
Once the divorce papers have been served to the respondent’s spouse, they will be notified of upcoming court dates in the papers. They will have 20 days after the date served to submit a response to the court stating whether or not they agree. The respondent spouse can file their counter-petition to address any issues they may have or think are pertinent to the divorce proceedings. If this is done, the original divorce petitioner has 20 days to answer the counter-petition. A Financial Affidavit and tax returns are required documents that must be disclosed during a divorce proceeding under Florida state law.
If the spouses cannot agree on splitting their belongings and financial assets, they will be required to attend a mediation hearing. A mediation hearing is where a neutral third party and both sides plus their legal representation will sit down and try to agree on how to split things. The mediation process is much less expensive and stressful than taking it to court.
If the spouses cannot agree, they will be forced to go to trial. During the trial, a judge will listen to both sides, view evidence, and ultimately decide on any issues the respondent and petitioner could not previously agree on. Divorce trials can quickly become lengthy, lasting from several days to months or even years.
What Happens When The Respondent Cannot Be Located?
In cases where the respondent spouse avoids being served and cannot be located to be served the divorce papers in person, the petitioner may be eligible for “Divorce by Publication”.
The Sheriff or certified server can also file an Affidavit of Diligent Search and Inquiry to submit proof that the respondent could not be located. With the assistance of the Affidavit, the divorce proceedings can be initiated without the respondent spouse’s participation.
Upon the unsuccessful attempts to locate and serve the respondent, the Sheriff or certified served must inform the judge. After this happens, the petitioner will receive another affidavit that will state the publishing of a legal notice in the local paper. Once this happens, the process of serving divorce papers is complete, and the petitioning spouse can obtain a Divorce by Publication.
How A Divorce Lawyer Can Help Near You
When going through a divorce, the process can become complicated quickly. Whether you are resolving your divorce or family law case amicably or in court, a divorce lawyer knows the law and will effectively pursue the best outcome for you. Consult a divorce attorney near you today to help you and your family navigate the divorce process.