After the Petition For Dissolution of Marriage has been filed, your wife or husband is permitted to receive it. Your partner does not have to reply to the Petition or do anything whatsoever until your spouse has been properly served. According to Florida Law, the Petition has to be served to your spouse in a proper manner. A process server or a Sheriff has to serve the Petition to your spouse and confirm that they have been served. “Substitute service” is an exception to the personal service requirement. This means that the Petition can be left by a process server at your spouse’s usual dwelling with a co-tenant of your spouse who is at least 15 years old.
Your spouse usually has 20 days to file an Answer or responsive pleading after they have been served. A default judgment could also be entered against them. Therefore, the Petition cannot be simply mailed or handed to your spouse. (Unless, for instance, your spouse signs papers waiving formal service of process. They have the right to do this.) In an uncontested situation, where all parties are in full agreement on everything and each party will be cooperative throughout the process, formal service is not required from a Sheriff or a process server. Your spouse has the option to sign the necessary papers waiving formal service rather than getting served by a process server or a Sheriff. The divorce process can move along quickly if this happens. As mentioned earlier, the Petition has to be responded to (in writing) within 20 days once it has been served. Your spouse has the option to respond to items in the Petition and they could file a Counter-Petition requesting things of their own. If there is no response from your spouse within the 20-day deadline, a default judgment could be filed against your partner and you could go directly to the court to testify in front of a judge regarding what you are requesting.
The law has a provision where rather than serving your spouse formally; you have the option to publish the matter in the newspaper. It has to be published on four straight occasions in a newspaper or publication that is legally recognized. If your spouse is really missing, you can take this action. (You will need to sign a sworn Affidavit of Diligent Search which shows that you made a concerted effort to find your spouse and was unable to do so). The search includes talking to friends and family, employers/former employers etc. You can’t publish just because you don’t want to talk to your spouse or you don’t feel like putting in the effort to look for them. If your spouse is in a foreign country, this is another situation where you can publish rather than serving personally. Another situation where you can publish is if your spouse affirmatively hides their location.
If the matter has been published and there has been no response from your spouse within the deadline of the notice, you could get a default judgment and then go straight to court. However, with Florida dissolution of marriage (divorce) that has been published, usually, the judge will only grant a divorce as a general proposition. In essence, the court will not award alimony for example. But, there are some instances that you might be awarded property or assets if you have published.
Navigating the requirements of divorce in Florida, especially if there are assets or children involved can be confusing. A misstep could result in an unfavorable result. Protect yourself, contact the divorce attorneys at Brandon Legal Group for guidance.