Divorce in Jail
Divorce in Jail
Going through a divorce is never easy. Things get even more complicated with a divorce in jail. On top of all the legal, emotional, and financial challenges you’re already facing, you also have to deal with the logistical difficulties of communicating with your spouse in prison. You will have to learn the ropes of prison visitation, mail, and phone calls—-all while negotiating thorny issues like child custody, property division, and alimony.
Divorcing someone in prison is similar to divorcing someone in the outside world, with just a few caveats. Here at Divorce Harmony we’ve assisted many clients that have been incarcerated. You can still get a divorce and you don’t have to go to court. Let’s go over the standard process of getting a divorce in Florida, and then we’ll discuss the special considerations that come into play when your spouse is incarcerated.
The Basics of Divorcing in Florida
In Florida, the process for getting a divorce is fairly straightforward. Let’s break down the most important aspects of filing for divorce in the Sunshine State:
Florida is a no-fault divorce state
This means you do not have to prove grounds for divorce, like adultery or abuse. All you need to do is say that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”, or that one party is “mentally incapacitated” for at least three years, for the court to grant a divorce.
Florida has a six-month residency requirement
Only Florida residents can file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court clerk in the county where they live.
Florida requires a financial affidavit from both parties
This is a document that lists each spouse’s assets, debts, tax returns, income, retirement account statements, and expenses. It is used to help determine alimony and child support payments.
Lying on your financial affidavit constitutes perjury, which may bring civil or criminal penalties.
Respondents have 20 days to respond
After the petition is filed, the respondent must be served with divorce papers. The petitioner can have a process server deliver the papers, or the sheriff’s department can do it.
Once the respondent is served, they have 20 days to file a response with the court. If they do not respond within that time frame, the court will assume they do not contest the divorce and will grant a default judgment.
Contested and uncontested divorces
If the respondent agrees to the divorce, they can file a form called an Answer and Waiver of Service once it is signed and notarized.
If the respondent does not agree to the divorce, they must file a counter-petition that will state the respondent’s grounds for contesting the divorce, as well as their requests for things like child custody and property division.
Your divorce becomes official once a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is signed by a Judge of the Circuit Court.
Five Things to Keep in Mind For a Divorce in Jail
As we touched on earlier, divorce in jail comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are four things to keep in mind as you navigate this difficult process:
1. Communicating long-distance
The impossibility of face-to-face communication is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face when divorcing an incarcerated spouse. You’ll have to get creative in how you communicate, whether it’s through letters, phone calls, or prison visits.
It can be hard to hash out difficult decisions when you’re not able to talk in person, so it’s important to be as clear and concise as possible in your communication. Be sure to write down any decisions that are made, so there is no confusion later on.
2. Accessing documents and records for a divorce in jail
If your spouse is in prison, they likely don’t have easy access to important documents like financial records and tax returns. You’ll need to be the one to gather these documents, which can be a time-consuming and frustrating process.
As someone on the outside, you’ll have to do most of the legwork in gathering the necessary documents—especially if you want an uncontested divorce. You can request copies from the court, the prison, or other government agencies. You can also hire a professional to help you track down the records you need.
3. Dealing with delays
The divorce process is notoriously slow, but it can be even slower when your spouse is in prison. Every step of the process—from filing the initial paperwork to finalizing the divorce—can take weeks or even months.
You’ll need to be patient and prepared for delays, as they are a common part of divorcing someone who is incarcerated.
4. Managing the cost
Divorces are expensive, and divorcing someone in prison can add even more costs to the process. If you’re paying for your spouse’s phone calls and visits, as well as the cost of gathering important documents, the financial burden of a divorce can be significant.
You may be able to get help with some of the costs associated with a prison divorce. For example, many states have programs that can help cover the cost of phone calls between inmates and their families. You may also be able to get financial assistance from friends or family members.
Amidst all the stress of divorce, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. Dealing with a contentious divorce can be emotionally draining, so be sure to make time for activities that make you happy.
It’s also important to seek professional help if you’re struggling to cope with the divorce process. A therapist or counselor can provide support and guidance as you get through this difficult time.
If you’re considering divorcing someone who is incarcerated, it’s important to understand the unique challenges that come with this type of divorce. From dealing with long-distance communication to managing the cost, there are a few things you should keep in mind. With patience and preparation, you can navigate the process and come out on the other side much stronger.