A legal separation is when a couple separates their lives while still remaining married. This can be an advantageous option for couples who are unsure about whether they want to get divorced or not. There are several benefits of a legal separation, including:
- You remain legally married, which means you are still able to receive certain benefits, such as health insurance and social security.
- You maintain the status quo until you make a final decision about your future.
- A legal separation can help you and your spouse work on any issues that need to be resolved before getting divorced.
- If you decide later that you want to get divorced, it will be much easier and less expensive.
- A legal separation can be helpful for couples who have religious objections to divorce.
Legal Separation in Florida
In Florida, legal separation is not a recognized legal status. This means that there is no specific process or set of procedures that couples can follow to obtain a legal separation. Instead, couples in Florida who wish to live separately must file for a dissolution of marriage.
While some couples may find the lack of legal separation options in Florida frustrating, just as there are benefits to legal separations, there are also several benefits to dissolving your marriage instead.
First, dissolving your marriage allows you to pursue individualized resolutions and arrangements regarding property division, child custody, and support. Second, dissolving your marriage is often less painful, since you only get to do it once, and most likely will not revisit the issue again. Finally, by dissolving your marriage, you end any formerly legally-binding obligations you may have had to your spouse.
What Can Floridians Do if They Want to Get “Legally Separated?”
While legal separation does not exist in Florida, there are a couple of ways to get separated from your spouse. These include:
1. Have a Trial Separation
A trial separation is a period of time during which a married couple separates to determine if they want to stay together. This is often done through an oral agreement. If the couple decides to get back together, they would stop being separated. If they decide to divorce, they would need to file for divorce. A trial separation can also be used as a way to figure out if there is any hope for the relationship or if it is time to move on.
During a trial separation, the couple needs to discuss terms like who will live in the house, how expenses will be divided, and who will take care of the children. If the couple has any shared assets or debts, they need to figure out how those will be divided as well. It is important to have an attorney help with this process in case anything goes wrong.
2. Draft a Separation Agreement
Another way to get separated from your spouse in Florida is to have an attorney draft a separation agreement for you. This agreement will outline the terms of the separation, including who will live where, how assets will be divided, and who will be responsible for what debts.
However, since Florida does not recognize legal separations, a separation agreement is not admissible in court, meaning that it cannot be used as evidence should the couple later decide to go to court for any reason. On the bright side though, this can be beneficial, as it allows both parties to negotiate fairly and without fear of repercussions.
However, most parents who get a separation agreement with the help of an attorney usually stick to its terms as it helps them to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.
3. Get a Postnuptial Agreement
While not originally created for that purpose, you should know that postnuptial agreements may be used as a form of legal separation in Florida. Basically, a postnuptial agreement is a written agreement between spouses that can be created by spouses after they are married. It sets forth the terms and conditions of what will happen to their property if they divorce or one of them dies. Postnuptial agreements are helpful in ensuring that both spouses are aware of each other’s financial positions and desires should something happen to their marriage. This is to help avoid disputes down the road.
In terms of a separation, a postnuptial agreement can be used to spell out the terms of the spouses’ new roles, such as division of property, support, and custody arrangements. However, it should be noted that it cannot be used to outline terms that are not allowed by state law. For example, a postnup cannot include terms that would waive the right to child support.
A postnup is legal in Florida, and if you would like to create one, you should contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss your options and the best way to proceed.
The Role of Mediation in the Legal Separation Process
When a married couple decides to legally separate, the process can be overwhelming and emotionally draining. There are many decisions that need to be made, including child custody, property division, and alimony. In most cases, the parties will need to have hard, uncomfortable conversations to resolve these disputes. However, there is another option available – mediation.
Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps the parties reach a settlement agreement. The mediator does not make any decisions for the parties, but instead helps them communicate and negotiate their own agreement. This can be a helpful option for couples who are willing to have a mediator help them come to an agreement with which they are both satisfied.
Speak to a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you are considering a separation from your spouse, or if you are in the process of mediating a separation, it is important to contact an experienced Florida family law attorney. An attorney at the Law Firm of Anthony J. Diaz can help you understand your rights and responsibilities under Florida law, and can assist you in negotiating a settlement or in litigating any disputes that may arise. Contact us to better understand your options and to get started.