Legal Separation in Florida – Does It Exist?
Usually the first step before a divorce is a separation in which during this time, spouses begin to live apart and start looking at the legal steps to filing for divorce. But did you know that “legal separation” is recognized in certain states?
Some couples consider getting legally separated first rather than divorcing due to how permanent divorce is and the costs associated with it. Although many states recognize a form of legal separation, Florida has no laws specifically recognizing it. A common misconception is that spouses in Florida can legally separate before filing for divorce. While there is no such thing as legal separation in Florida, many spouses still separate before initiating divorce proceedings. During a marital separation, the couple remains legally married but is no longer living together as husband and wife. In other states, couples can file for legal separation, which allows them to agree on other issues such as child support or custody. Therefore, what exactly are the legal implications of separating in Florida?
Even though there are no specific rules regarding separation, Florida courts can still play an active role in overseeing a separation. This is because a couple who seeks recognition of their physical separation before commencing divorce proceedings can take advantage of several other state laws. For example, when a couple is living apart and there are children involved, either spouse may request the court to resolve issues such as child support payments and timesharing.
Florida courts allow couples to enter into legally binding agreements to formalize the terms of their separation. This document is referred to as a Separation Agreement. Couples must enter such an agreement on their own accord, and the document is legally binding. The couple will also be charged with resolving issues in the agreement amongst themselves and will be accountable for following the terms of the agreement. Florida courts do not approve the separation agreement documents or resolve disputes concerning the agreement.
Nonetheless, a separation agreement is still a good way to formalize spouses’ physical separation. A court can consider the date that the couple separated when dividing property and debt. For example, a couple may be separated for a year before filing for a divorce. During this time, the wife may have solely contributed to an increase in the value of an investment property. Under these circumstances, the court may conclude it would be inequitable to award the husband a portion of the wife’s contribution which was acquired after the date of separation. It is not uncommon for couples to dispute the exact date of separation. Thus, entering into a valid separation agreement may help a court ascertain the date of separation and the couple’s intent regarding resolving the distribution of assets and liabilities.
Further, because a separation agreement may be used to resolve property, debt, and child-related issues, the document could be complex. Before you and your spouse decide to prepare your separation agreement, it is advised to consult with an attorney.
Many couples decide to separate while remaining legally married before filing for a divorce. This may be due to religious beliefs or pressure from family. Whatever the reason may be, a couple that decides to separate should be aware that Florida does not recognize a formal legal separation. Before separating from your spouse, contact a Florida Family law attorney. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm has a team of experienced Probate and Family attorneys located in Coral Gables, Florida. As attorneys who focus on Family Law matters, we understand the emotional aspects of divorce. We serve the entire state of Florida so call us at 305-677-5119 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.