Legal Separation in Florida: Can It Be Done?
We have many clients tell me they are not quite sure they are ready for a divorce but want to know about a Legal Separation in Florida instead. The first thing you should know is that unlike most states, Legal Separation is not recognized in the State of Florida. This means that a judge can’t sign an order declaring you “Legally Separated”.
Statistics show that close to 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. There are many reasons a couple might pursue a separation and not a divorce. These might be religious sentiment or family pressure. Reasons for separation may also involve tax or healthcare benefits and social security credits. It can also be for the children’s security.
So, What Are My Options Instead of a Legal Divorce in Florida?
You cannot get a Legal Separation in Florida. However, you may have other options.
Court Adjudication and Spousal Support
The courts don’t recognize a legal separation in Florida. However, a spouse may request court adjudication of certain issues if there are children involved. This can be because the parents are living apart. The items addressed can include the division of property, child custody and visitation rights. This can also address the amount of any child support payments.
One spouse may reside in a different state from the other spouse and child. The spouse in the other state may obtain an adjudication of obligation to the spouse and the child. The court can also award spousal support.
Settlement and Separation Agreement
Sometimes, parties do not want to involve the courts. They may just want to put in writing an agreement that details their intentions. This can be prior to a divorce. This can be were the parties sign a legally binding “contract.” This contract is called a “Settlement and Separation agreement”.
Property, Debt, Support, and Children
Within this agreement parties can agree how to resolve several items. This agreement can help resolve division of property and debt. The agreement can also help resolve spousal support. It can also resolve issues related to children. Parties can include provisions for visitation rights. Parties can also address child support within this agreement.
What you have signed in effect is a “post nuptial agreement”. If both parties abide the terms of this agreement then the courts need never become involved. If the agreement is not kept, this signed contract can be presented to the courts for enforcement purposes.
Even if you have both signed this contract you are still legally married. This means you can’t remarry.
In Closing: Courts Don’t Have to Honor Your Agreement
Parties may have agreed to and signed a separation agreement. However, this does not mean that courts will be bound by any agreement if they become involved.
A good example is issues concerning children. The Florida Bar has great information concerning parenting plan considerations, for instance. Parents don’t have the right to contract away their children’s rights.
The court will have the final say as to what is in the best interest of the children.