COuple going through separation

Does Florida Recognize Legal Separation?

Sometimes, a couple may wish to live separately, but is not fully prepared for the finality of divorce just yet. When living apart, however, the couple may want structures in place that address certain issues such as spousal support, child custody and support, and other things. This is why some couples seek a legal separation. During a legal separation, a court can address these types of issues without granting a divorce. Not all states, however, offer and recognize legal separation.

Does Florida Recognize Legal Separation?

Florida law does not define legal separation and legal separation is not recognized in Florida. Couples that wish to remain legally married, but live separately, however, have several options for such an arrangement without the need for a court to order the legal separation. So, if you do not wish to get divorced just yet, but wish to live separately with legal structures in place to address some of the key aspects of such an arrangement, there are a number of choices that can help make this happen.

When spouses do not want to get divorced, but wish to live apart, there can be a number of issues that the spouses still want to be addressed in a formal manner. For instance, they may want to divide property. They may want to structure child custody and visitation rights. They may also want to iron out who will pay child support and how much those payments should be. While courts cannot adjudicate a legal separation in Florida, the courts can still play an active role in addressing many of these issues incident to spouses separating.

For instance, there need not be divorce proceedings initiated for a spouse to file a Petition for Support with the court. In filing this petition, the spouse can seek child support and spousal support, commonly known as “alimony,” from a spouse that has moved out of the marital residence. The petition itself will specify that it is not related to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the court will render a decision on the question of support.

There are also alternatives where the court need not be involved, but all relevant issues of the separation can still be ironed out. A separation agreement, for example, is a legally binding agreement that the spouses can enter into on their own. The spouses can set the terms and, in effect, it ends up being the same as if they were living in a jurisdiction where legal separation was recognized. Florida courts will not, however, approve such agreements or resolve disputes related to such agreements.

Alternatively, and much the same as a separation agreement, a couple may wish to enter into a postnuptial agreement. Such agreements can specify the terms and conditions of a marital separation. This means the agreement can dictate division of the assets, alimony, and other issues that are usually addressed during divorce proceedings.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

If you are ready to separate, but not yet ready for divorce, talk to the family law team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou about your options. Contact us today.