Florida is a “no-fault divorce” state. Prior to becoming a no-fault divorce state, parties in Florida needed to allege a major fault based cause for their divorce, such as infidelity, abandonment, cruel and unusual treatment, or impotence. When Florida became a no-fault state, a divorcing spouse only needs to assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
What if you don’t believe your marriage is irretrievably broken? Is there a way to challenge your spouse’s request for divorce? Florida Statutes § 61.052(2)(b) deals with this possibility:
When there is a minor child of the marriage, or when the responding party denies by answer to the petition for dissolution (divorce) that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may:
- Order either or both parties to consult with a marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi, or any other person deemed qualified by the court and acceptable to the party or parties ordered to seek consultation; or
- Continue the proceedings for a reasonable length of time not to exceed three months, to enable the parties themselves to effect a reconciliation; or
- Take such other action as may be in the best interest of the parties and the minor child of the marriage.
If, at any time, the court finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage. If the court does not find the marriage irretrievably broken, it shall deny the petition for dissolution of marriage.
It appears that this Florida statute provides a method by which one spouse may challenge a legal request for divorce. However, as in true with many aspects of the law, there exists a theoretical use of the statute vs. its practical application. In theory, the statute provides a method by which someone may challenge a petition for divorce. However, in practicality, the courts do not often order divorcing spouses into reconciliation counseling or to pause/abate the proceedings. Generally speaking, the judges take the position that if one party asserts that their marriage is irretrievably broken, the judge will grant the divorce even over the objection of the other party. The reasoning behind this practice is that it takes two people to make a marriage work. Similarly, it takes two people who desire to reconcile their differences to make reconciliation counseling successful. As a result, unless both parties are willing to engage in either an abatement of their divorce proceedings or to enter into reconciliation counseling, the court will not require them to do so.