Does Legal Separation Exist in Florida?

Sun, Jan 10, 2016

Family Law

14004677233_0a2e082355_bNo, legal separation doesn’t really exist in Florida as it does in many other states. However, there are some similar arrangements that are possible if you decide not to divorce right away. There are also protections under Florida law for divorcing couples that can provide some legal protection.

Therefore, if just living apart does not appeal to you then you could consider a formal separation agreement. This agreement would divvy up as many assets as possible, along with responsibility for bills, accounts, etc. It would allow you to breathe easier in knowing there is a structured agreement between you and your spouse. This agreement could be flexible enough to allow you space, yet also allow you to decide if the separation should turn into divorce. It would also be structured enough that you could refer to provisions in the agreement in many instances. However, not all aspects of the law are going to recognize this agreement. For instance, the credit card bill would still be in both your names…the credit bureau isn’t going to recognize this agreement if they are owed money they aren’t getting. Therefore, if this were something that applies in your situation, you would need to decide about some sort of consolidation or dividing it into two debts or perhaps a personal loan. Keep in mind, this is not a legal separation in the eyes of Florida; it is just an agreement between parties.

In addition, a separation agreement would not always be a good idea for those in high conflict situations where little is easily agreed upon or where there are children involved. While the agreement could provide structure, it would not be as official as a divorce. You would need to consider carefully what you are expecting from the agreement and how your needs might change as circumstances change. However, the separation agreement could be drafted in a way to consider the needs of families with children.

Another agreement that could work would be a post-nuptial agreement. A pre-nuptial agreement could be easier overall, as you have probably have less to consider about what you own, and you might feel more amicable before you get married about deciding these matters. However, a postnuptial agreement would be similar in scope and can consider items like custody and alimony. This agreement would have everything ready if you decide to divorce. It would dictate many of the decisions that would come into play during a divorce ahead of time. This could make a divorce much smoother. But, this agreement would not necessarily assuage concerns of lienholders. Titles to property would also have to be evaluated for how they would be handled.

Florida law has methods in place to allow for temporary custody and temporary support during divorce. This allows spouses to get the support they need with rules that can help calm down the chaos.

As you can see, ending a marriage is no easy task. Sometimes you think you will be able to make a marriage work if you have some space, or perhaps you want to try it with specific rules in place. There are methods for doing this while staying married, however a legal separation doesn’t really exist in Florida as it does in other states.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, family law, real estate, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

Image: Some rights reserved by Burnsey (AKA Sean Burns)

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