Florida Bar in the process of creating gender-neutral divorce documents

By : Colton Adkins
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ORLANDO | The last marriage-related document in Florida is finally changing to reflect the needs of same-sex couples.

After the 2015 marriage equality ruling by the state of Florida and the U.S. Supreme Court, marriage applications and most divorce forms were adjusted to include same-sex couples. However, Barry Miller, President of the Central Florida Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association (CFGALLA) and CEO of The Closing Agent, discovered the Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage still referred to couples as “Husband” and “Wife.”

“I was manning the free legal clinic that CFGALLA does at The Center [Orlando], and two guys came in and said, ‘Can you help us fill out these forms? We’re getting divorced.’” says Miller. While going through the paperwork, Miller explains that the couple felt confused and demeaned that the state forms continuously referred to couples as “Husband” and “Wife.”

Miller reached out to the Office of Court Improvement about this confusion, and they told him that the documents provided by the Office did change and that the Petition for Simplified Dissolution of Marriage was provided by the Florida Bar, who, according to Miller, “opted to retain ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife.’”

Chairman of the Florida Bar’s Family Law Rules Committee Robert Merlin says that the Bar and other committees are currently working on changing these forms.

“I can tell you for sure that the forms are being changed. [The Family Law Rules Committee] is working on it; there is a Supreme Court Rules and Forms committee that is working on it as well,” says Merlin.“There has been a task force created with the Family Law Section to revise statues and forms so that they are gender-neutral.”

The timeline for these documents changing remains ambiguous, but Merlin assures that the documents will change.

“It’s taking time because there’s a lot of work that has to be done, but it is absolutely being done,” he says.

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