When most people think of divorce, they imagine messy court proceedings, spouses and lawyers yelling at each other and – of course – huge legal bills. Any divorce can get out of hand because the outcome and costs are never guaranteed. But if you’re in the process of divorcing, one alternative to going to court is for you and your spouse to enter into separation agreements. A separation agreement can resolve most issues arising out of a marriage, such as property and debt division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Entering into a separation agreement tends to save money, time, and stress as well. Orlando Family Team understands which issues must be handled during separation, and we can draft an agreement that protects your interests.
Do Married Couples Have to File for Legal Separation?
No. Unlike most states, Florida does not require spouses to go through a formal legal or court process to separate. “Legal separation” does not exist in Florida, and the court does not have to agree to let couples live separately. In fact, you don’t even have to go to court to create a separation agreement. Instead, you and your lawyer simply draft an agreement (or review one proposed by your spouse) and enter into it privately.
Will a Separation Agreement Result in a Divorce?
Separation agreements do not end a marriage. The parties will remain legally married until one of them files for divorce. Some couples decide to divorce, and others get back together. In some cases, the parties remain indefinitely separated, without divorcing, for personal or religious reasons. The bottom line is that the separation agreement will not result in a divorce.
When We Divorce, Is The Court Bound By The Separation Agreement?
Because there is no such thing as legal separation in Florida, agreements made during separation are not legally enforceable and do not bind the court during divorce. If and when the couple decides to divorce, courts can re-examine everything the parties agreed to, including visitation and custody, child support, spousal support, and the division of marital property and debt.
Are There Reasons to Separate Instead of Divorce?
As mentioned above, a separation can last for an indefinite amount of time. So why not just divorce? These are some of the common reasons spouses have:
- Religious — Because divorce is not approved in many religions, a separation can resolve marital difficulties without violating one’s religious beliefs.
- Healthcare — Many spouses are on their partners’ healthcare plans, but divorce terminates that coverage. Separation allows one spouse to continue carrying the other on his or her plan.
- Military — Spouses gain certain benefits if they are married to a service member for at least 10 years. Separation allows a spouse to stay married so they can hit that mark.
- Social Security and other benefits — Many of these increase after a couple has been married 10 years, so separation allows the parties to reach that point.
- Taxes — If you’re separated but not divorced, you can continue filing joint tax returns as married and receive the benefits and deductions.
- You’re just not sure. In many cases, spouses just need time apart to figure out what to do next, whether it’s divorcing or getting back together. Separation agreements help couples live apart while they figure this out.
What Can Be Included in a Separation Agreement?
Every married couple is different, so no two separation agreements are the same. But these are some of the common issues that are covered in Florida separation agreements:
- The marital home: who will live in and possess the marital home? Also, who assumes responsibility for bills and other expenses?
- Assets and debts: who gets the property, checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles, etc.? Who is responsible for paying the credit cards, loans, and other debts?
- Spousal support and benefits
- Child support and child custody
My Spouse and I Did Not Sign a Separation Agreement. What Court Action Can I Take?
You do not have to have a separation agreement to seek relief in Florida courts for family matters. Even without one, you can ask the court to intervene in child custody, child support, property division, and other matters.
If you need alimony or child support while separated, you can file a Petition for Support Disconnected with Dissolution of Marriage. This enables a spouse to receive alimony (if eligible) and child support from the spouse who has moved out. As the name makes clear, the request is not related to the termination of the marriage.
Are There Other Agreements My Spouse and I Can Use?
A couple can enter into a postnuptial agreement once they are married. This document specifies what happens in the event the parties later divorce. It can be used to address child support, child custody, alimony, and property and debt division.
What Is a Limited Divorce?
Even though Florida does not recognize legal separation, there is such an action as a limited divorce. It is similar to legal separation and can be obtained on several grounds. Among them are cruelty, desertion, and voluntary separation. In a limited divorce, the courts can decide such matters as visitation and where the child will reside. The court will determine child support that the noncustodial parent will have to pay, based on the parents’ incomes and resources.
Contrary to popular belief, a limited divorce is not a necessary first step to obtaining an absolute divorce in Florida. In fact, many couples obtain a limited divorce and decide they want to get back together later.
Contact Our Orlando Separation Agreements Attorney
If you’ve got questions about separation agreements, divorce, or other family law matters, turn to Orlando Family Team. We understand the difficulties of divorce and separation and are here to make the process easier. Give us a call today or fill out the contact form.