Unlike many other states, Florida law does not provide for a “legal separation.” In fact, Florida is one of only eight states which does not recognize legal separation. Some believe this is because Florida is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the typical allegation for a divorce proceeding is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”—which also mean there is no hope of reconciliation. States which still require “fault” in order to file for divorce, usually also require the couple to be legally separated for a specific length of time, and even many states that don’t require “fault,” still provide for legal separation. The attorneys at The Law Place can help you with the alternative offered to a legal separation by the state of Florida. We will help you work around your particular situation, determining the best solution for those involved which is also sanctioned by the courts.
What is Florida’s Alternative to a Legal Separation?
Florida’s alternative to a legal separation includes an action for “Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage,” or a mediation or settlement agreement which provides the terms of your separation (although an agreement of this type would not have court approval). Although such an agreement could theoretically be enforced as a contract, as a whole, a settlement agreement such as this lacks legal standing in the state of Florida. If you are planning to live apart from your spouse and desire to have the court’s stamp of approval, you would likely file the action for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage.
Remember, even when one spouse moves out of the marital home, this is not considered a legal separation in the eyes of Florida family court. You may wonder why couples would even bother with a separation instead of going straight to a divorce. The desire to separate rather than divorce stems from many different reasons. Perhaps the parties are not quite ready to divorce and want to try and save the marriage. Maybe there are religious beliefs at hand which prohibit a divorce, or the couple simply can’t afford a divorce at this time but no longer want to live as husband and wife.
When a Spouse Files for Alimony and Child Support Unconnected With Dissolution
If one partner files for Alimony and Child Support Unconnected with Dissolution, that spouse can request the other spouse to continue to contribute to the financial support of the minor children as well as requesting spousal support. At this point, the court will not separate assets, and will not determine which spouse can remain in the marital home. Both parties are assumed to have the right to remain in the marital residence and neither can force the other to move out, regardless of whose name is on the deed or the lease. Even a spouse who is not contributing to marital bills cannot be forced to leave the marital home. Should one spouse leave the home for a period of time, he or she may still return, even moving back in at will until a legal divorce is sought. During this time, marital debts and liabilities will continue to accrue.
No Residency Requirements for Support Unconnected With Dissolution of Marriage
Unlike a divorce petition, there is no residency requirement associated with a request for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage. If neither spouse meets the Florida residency requirement connected with a divorce petition, the Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage can be filed, and converted into a divorce petition once the six month residency requirement is met. If your goal is to avoid a divorce, it might not be in your best interests to file for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage. Some couples choose to consider the option of a Post Nuptial Agreement in such situations. This type of agreement can work as a kind of contract which states what the parties will do in the event of a divorce
Child Custody and Visitation Without Benefit of a Divorce
Couples with children who are living separately but have not filed for divorce can file a motion with the court, asking the court to establish a primary residence for the children as well as to set child support. The court may also determine custody and visitation rights based on the number of children, the children’s ages, any special needs of the children and the hours of employment of each parent. The date of your separation is relevant only as it marks the start of the time child support is legally required. If a divorce follows the separation, there may be a re-evaluation of custody of the children. The Law Place attorneys have helped many couples who are going through a difficult time and want to separate until it is decided whether a divorce will occur. We understand the emotions involved in a separation, and will ensure you do not violate any rules which could result in negative consequences during a subsequent divorce.