The Florida residency requirements for divorce is/are that a party must prove that one of the litigants (petitioner or respondent) has resided in Florida for a minimum of at least six months prior to filing for dissolution. Florida Statute § 61.021, “Residence requirements,” provides that: “To obtain a dissolution of marriage, one of the parties to the marriage must reside 6 months in the state before the filing of the petition.” The residency requirement establishes jurisdiction in a Florida family law court. Establishing jurisdiction in a Florida court enables the judge to preside over the parties’ dissolution of marriage case. Foundationally, the courts have routinely upheld this requirement, “It is not enough for the parties to merely submit a petition requesting a dissolution of marriage, the party must establish the court’s jurisdiction over the parties. Wise v. Wise, 310 So.2d 431, 432 (Fla. 1st DCA 1975).
In a recently decided case, McNeil v. Jenkins-McNeil, the Fifth District Court of Appeals Court discussed the Florida residency requirement for divorce and implications of a party failing to meet the residency requirement. 252 So.3d 354 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018). In McNeil, the Wife filled a petition for dissolution of marriage, however, she did not allege that she was a resident of Florida. At trial, the Husband failed to appear, causing the trial court to grant the Wife’s divorce. The Husband appealed this decision. The Husband alleged that the Court failed to establish jurisdiction over him because the Wife failed to meet her burden of proving her or her husband’s residency in Florida.
According to Florida Statute § 61.052(2), the minimum Florida residency requirements for divorce can be corroborated by a “valid Florida driver license, a Florida voter’s registration card, a valid Florida identification card…, or the testimony or affidavit of a third party.” In McNeil, the Wife failed to allege that she personally had fulfilled the Florida residency requirement, leading the Wife to shoulder the burden of proving, at trial, that her husband was a lawful resident of Florida for at least 6 months prior to her filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. However, “[t]he residency requirement may not be established by the uncorroborated testimony of one party.” McNeil (citing Lemon v. Lemon, 413 So.3d 623, 623-24 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975)).
The parties may not waive by admission in the “pleadings that the residency requirement has been met.” McNeil, (citing Grey v. Grey, 995 So.2d 623, 624 (Fla.2d DCA 2008)). Additionally, “residence can never be assumed, nor can it be established by agreement.” McNeil, (citing Fazio v. Fazio, 66 So.2d 297, 299 (Fla. 1953). The Court in this case granted the Husband’s petition for reversal of the final decree of dissolution due to the “petitioner fail[ing] to establish the statutory prerequisite of residence,” and held the lower court lacked the jurisdiction necessary to enter a final judgment against the Husband. The Florida residency requirements for divorce cannot be waived or discounted by the court.
While the right to enter into marriage is a fundamental right, as is the right to obtain a divorce in Florida, that does not excuse a court from establishing the Florida residency requirements for divorce by taking jurisdiction over a party before allowing a petition for dissolution to be granted. The courts must follow the requirements set forth under Florida Statute § 61.021, and the party filing the petition for dissolution must prove that either himself/herself or the other party has satisfied the residency requirement for divorce in Florida.