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What Is the Difference Between a Separation Agreement and a Settlement Agreement?

Did you know that some states allow for formal legal separation while others do not? It’s true. Florida is, in fact, one of only a few states that do not allow for formal legal separation. While the State may not recognize the validity of a legal separation, there are still agreements that may be used should you wish to separate from your spouse. It is important to remember, however, that a separation agreement is different from a settlement agreement. We will review the differences more in-depth here.

Separation Agreement vs. Settlement Agreement

Couples can enter into an informal separation agreement and make a goodwill agreement to comply with the terms of the separation. Because Florida does not recognize formal legal separation, however, a separation agreement will not be approved by a court and will not be enforceable should any disputes arise from such an agreement. It is merely an informal tool that a separating couple may wish to voluntarily enter into to provide themselves with some guidance on how the separation should be navigated.

While there is no such thing really as an official separation agreement, there are official, legally binding agreements that may be established when a couple chooses to separate in Florida. For instance, one spouse may file a Petition for Support with the court seeking alimony and/or child support payments from the spouse who has moved out of the marital home while filing for formal divorce proceedings has not yet occurred. 

Furthermore, a separating couple may wish to enter into a postnuptial agreement. The agreement can outline specific terms and conditions regarding payment of the marital debt and alimony payments, as well as how the marital assets will be divided and distributed.

A settlement agreement differs from a separation agreement as it sets the terms for the divorce, not the separation. A settlement agreement should address all central issues of the divorce. This can include things like division of marital assets and debts, child custody, and child support, as well as spousal support. Sometimes, a couple may not be able to reach an agreement on these issues and, if that is the case, the court will decide these issues for them. If, however, a couple can reach a settlement agreement, the judge will likely hold a hearing and verify that both parties understand the terms of the agreement. The judge can then approve the settlement agreement and incorporate it into the final divorce decree. This is an important distinction. The settlement agreement, when approved by the judge, outlines the terms of the divorce. The final divorce decree actually grants the divorce.

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Are you considering separating from your spouse? Are you considering divorcing your spouse? In either case, there are unique, complex, and important legal issues that you should address to help ensure that you are protecting yourself. The dedicated family law attorneys at Orlando Family Team will work to protect your best interests. Contact us today.

About the Author
Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew and his partner, Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S., joined forces in March 2016 to form the unique and boutique husband and wife family law team at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. Together, Andrew and Ophelia take a practical and team-based approach to all of their cases and clients to deliver the highest quality experience and representation.
Andrew Nickolaou

Andrew Nickolaou, Esq., B.C.S., is a founding partner at Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou, P.A. He practices almost exclusively in divorce, marital and family law. Andrew also handles record expungements and sealings. If you have questions about this article, contact Andrew today by clicking here.