The Florida Divorce Courts Are No Place for Tourists

The Florida divorce courts have strict limitations on who can file for divorce in Florida. Florida law requires that before a court has “subject matter jurisdiction,” a potential filer must have resided in the State of Florida for six months prior to the filing.

One rationale behind this rule is obviously to discourage “divorce tourism.” The Florida courts are typically available primarily to Florida residents, particularly in matters involving domestic relations. There are several advantages to filing a divorce in the Florida courts that may not exist elsewhere. Alimony provisions in Florida tend to be more generous than those in foreign countries and even those in other U.S. states. Also, the Florida courts tend to zealously enforce child support orders, often providing for incarceration by repeat offenders.

The second requirement for filing a Florida divorce is that the court must be able to determine that the State of Florida is where the parties maintain their “matrimonial domicile.” The question of what constitutes a matrimonial domicile is often a fact-intensive inquiry which can be proven through corroborating witnesses and documents. Although a person may have many homes, that person can only have one “domicile.” The term “domicile” has generally been interpreted by the Florida courts to be the place where the parties maintain their marital home. It does not include a vacation home or, obviously, a temporary residence.

Florida can be a very attractive place to vacation and even to file for divorce if the right conditions exist. United States courts, and particularly those in Florida, tend to be more protective of the rights of women in general and mothers in particular when compared to how those rights may be defined in foreign countries. However, before filing for divorce in Florida, a party must understand the residency and matrimonial domicile requirements.