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Is There Legal Separation in Florida?

How a legal separation differs from a full-fledged divorce.

In some states, couples are allowed to enter into a legal separation. A legal separation ultimately allows a couple to remain married while living apart after the court order has been entered. The idea of a legal separation is that the married couple is given a “trial period” of sorts, giving them the time needed to take a step back and decide whether divorce is the right decision, albeit while remaining legally married.

In states that recognize legal separation, a court order will outline the rights and responsibilities of both spouses under their newfound arrangement. The vast majority of states allow legal separation, but Florida is not one of those states.

While Florida has no law in place to allow a court-ordered legal separation, this does not mean the parties cannot make there own separation agreement. Rather, it simply means that reaching this agreement will not lead to a legal separation that is court approved. Simply put, Floridians are free to create a separation agreement, but it will not be legally recognized in the state of Florida.

Reasons a Florida Couple May Wish to Create a Separation Agreement

Since there are no legal separations in Florida, there are only a handful of reasons to consider a separation agreement. First, a separation agreement could prove useful when religious beliefs conflict with the idea of a divorce. Alternatively — or, additionally as the case may be — the couple may reach a separation agreement for practical reasons, such as preventing insurance from terminating. In such an instance, both parties should ensure that the insurance policy does not contain a provision that treats a separation agreement as if it is a divorce.

Limitations of a Florida Separation Agreement

A Florida separation agreement will have no legally binding impact on the rights and duties of both spouses while living apart. However, Florida law does have provisions designed to address any and all custody, visitation and support issues that may arise based on a married couple living apart from one another.

Based on these provisions, a spouse living apart from their other spouse may be able to receive a legal adjudication that requires the other spouse to provide spousal support and child support. Similarly, the court is legally entitled to take actions to establish a child’s primary residence and parental custody and visitation rights. These legal authorities are granted based on 61.10 of the 2016 Florida Statutes.

For the vast majority of Floridians, the lack of legal recognition afforded to a separation agreement makes separation agreements a generally undesirable option. As such, divorce is typically the wisest choice from a legal perspective for all parties involved.

If you have questions regarding legal separations, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]