Legal Separation vs Divorce in Florida

Legal SeparationA question we frequently hear from clients is in regard to legal marital separation  in Florida, and any benefit it offers relative to the divorce process. Interestingly, Florida is one of eight states that does not recognize legal separation between a couple.

Within Florida, a husband and wife can legally live separately, however state law does not recognize the status of legally separated. In some ways, this absence of legally separated status can make separation easier for some couples, noting that husband and wife can separate without the need for court order. This is especially beneficial when a couple may wish to avoid legal process due to social, religious or professional concerns.

Still, Florida Family Courts do offer different laws regarding separation between a couple to facilitate the separation of the family unit.

Here are facts you should know regarding marital separation.

Alternatives to Legal Separation

With no legal marital separation where a couple can seek a court order to legally formalize a separation, Florida Family Courts may offer special provisions to help regulate spousal/child support, custody and rights of visitation during separation.

An important fact to keep in mind, while a separation agreement may be written and signed by both husband and wife, it is not considered a “legal separation” by Florida courts. The provisions determined through the family court system are legal orders specifically defined for regulation of the family needs.

Child Custody and Visitation

For couples with children, but are living separately, it is possible to file a court motion to ask for the establishment of a primary residence for the children and set child support.

Florida courts have the right to determine custody and visitation rights for the parties during the separation. Many factors may impact the determination including:

  • Number and age of children
  • Special needs (medical, educational, emotional concerns) of the child or children
  • Hours of employment for each of parent

What Constitutes a Legal Separation in Florida

Factors the courts may use to define a separation:

  • You have minor children and live with the children apart from your spouse
  • You do not share financial accounts and have separate responsibilities for independent household expenses
  • The date of separation is a key date if it is a precursor to filing for divorce. This date marks the start of legally required child support from one parent to another

Should the separation lead to divorce, a re-evaluation of custodianship of the children will take place unless both parties agree to the mediated settlement.

We hope this post provided information and clarification on the different provisions and laws controlling the separation between a couple and the family unit within the state of Florida.

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