Legal Separation

Couples who are having a hard time, but don’t want to divorce may want to look into legal separation. Legal separation does have benefits a divorce cannot provide. Couples who are legally separated can still jointly file taxes and can share financial information. It can also ease shared children into the idea of living in two separate homes.

Unfortunately, Florida doesn’t recognize legal separations. You can, however, file certain paperwork that creates a legal separation in practice. Some of these include creating separation agreements, petition for support disconnected to divorce and formulating a postnuptial agreement. 

If you or your spouse is interested in pursuing a legal separation, it’s imperative you contact a skilled family law attorney.

Divorce Attorney Explains Legal Separation in Broward County, FL

Legal separation may be the best idea for you and your family. To learn more, contact Bacchus Law Firm for answers to your legal questions. Nisha E. Bacchus is an experienced family law attorney who has assisted numerous couples in being legally separated.

Call (954) 500-5555 now to schedule a consultation today. During the consultation, Ms. Bacchus will overlook your case to see what the best course of action is. Bacchus Law Firm accepts clients throughout the greater Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area including Pompano Beach, Pembroke Pines and Hollywood.

Overview of Legal Separation in Florida

Why Choose Legal Separation Over Divorce?

You may be asking, why would I separate my spouse when I can just divorce them? What you may not know is that legal separation offers benefits that divorce doesn’t. It can also provide relief for couples who are unsure about divorce or cannot because of religious beliefs. 

Listed below are some reasons why you should legally separate rather than divorce.

  • Continued healthcare coverage;
  • Tax benefits;
  • Social security benefits increase after 10 years of marriage;
  • Military benefits cannot be received unless you’ve been married for 10 years;
  • Keep the same immigration status;
  • Religious beliefs; or
  • The couple wants to live separately but remain married

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Does Florida Offer Legal Separation?

Most states have a formal system for couples to legally separate. It’s usually a formal agreement made by two parties that’s signed off in court. Unfortunately, Florida is one of six states that doesn’t allow legal separation. This means if you create a separation agreement, no judge will be able to enforce it because it’s not a legitimate court order. 

This doesn’t mean you’re required to divorce if you can’t be legally separated. You can file legal actions which establishes child support, alimony and how property is divided without divorcing under the law. It can be incredibly beneficial to choose separation if you and your spouse need relief but are unsure where your relationship is going. 

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Substitutes for Legal Separation in Florida

You may not be able to legally separate in Florida, but you can file for legal action that is like separation. Many Floridians file for one or more of the following instead of divorcing. Each has their own process, pros, cons and limitations. Listed below are some legal substitutes for separating as a married couple in Florida.

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Separation Agreements

Some couples choose to draft a separation agreement instead of dissolving their marriage.  The agreement would address any issues within the marriage including division of property, child custody, time sharing and other relevant problems. It must be jointly drafted and usually both parties will have their attorney present.

Many family law lawyers will recommend you don’t follow a separation agreement. This is because separation agreements are not recognized or approved by any court in Florida to be valid. If you or your spouse violates the terms, there will be no ramifications. This means you will have to rely on the word of your former spouse without any kind of security. 

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Petition for Support

Another option for people who wish to legally separate is to file a formal petition for support unconnected to dissolution of the marriage. However, this legal action only addresses of support such as child support or spousal support. It doesn’t relate to child custody or time sharing. To do this, you must establish your shared child’s primary residence.

You spouse will be notified if you’re petitioning for support. If they agree, then the petition is uncontested, and you will have a final hearing to decide the details. If your former spouse disagrees, then they can counterpetition. You must answer the counterpetition within 20 days. If you’re unable to settle the dispute, the court will schedule a hearing to discuss the matter.

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Postnuptial Agreements

You may not be able to file a legal separation order, but you can file a contract for what happens if you do divorce. This is referred to as a postnuptial agreement and many couples use it to legally separate in Florida. The document answers these questions in case of a divorce: 

  • Who resides in the marital residence;
  • Spousal support, alimony and child support;
  • The primary residence of shared children;
  • Visitation and time-sharing with the shared children;
  • How are support payments made and to whom;
  • How assets are divided to both parties; and
  • What is considered a breach of agreement and the consequences for violating the postnuptial agreement

You can enter a postnuptial agreement at any time during your marriage. So, many couples having issues keep their postnuptial agreement to enforce their terms. If you and your spouse separate and they violate the agreement, then you can file an action in court to enforce the terms of the agreement. 

It’s highly recommended you choose the postnuptial agreement route if you wish to legally separate from your spouse. Separation agreements cannot stand on their own in court and a petition for support is only related to child support or spousal support. A postnuptial agreement addresses most separation-related concerns and is also enforceable in Florida. 

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Additional Resources 

Legal Separation Forms in Florida – Visit the official website of Florida courts to access forms related to legal separation. Use the site to read the instructions for petitions for support, separation agreements and postnuptial agreements and how they function. 

Florida Divorce Laws – Visit the official website of Online Sunshine, a collection of Florida state laws and legislation.  Access the site to learn more about the steps to legal separation, how to file for a limited divorce, and trial divorce in Florida. 

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Legal Separation Lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

If you or your spouse are interested in pursuing a legal separation, it’s recommended you have the aid of a skilled divorce attorney. Florida doesn’t recognize legal separation, but it’s still possible with a creative and experienced family lawyer. Call Bacchus Law Firm today to learn more about legal separation in the Broward County area.

Nisha E. Bacchus is a reputable attorney who has practiced family law for years. She can utilize her knowledge to help you detangle these confusing legal proceedings. Contact us now at (954) 500-5555 to set up a consultation today. Bacchus Law Firm accepts clients throughout Broward County including Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Pembroke Pines.

This article was last updated on June 6, 2019.