Separating from a partner can be a difficult decision for both, whether you choose to dissolve the marriage through divorce or maintain your marital status with a separation agreement. For some people, divorce may not be an option due to religious, medical, financial, or emotional reasons.
A married couple may decide to pursue a legal separation, where they can negotiate child custody, spousal support, and division of property without dissolution of marriage. Even if the split is amicable, both parties should seek the assistance of a legal separation attorney.
At Miami Family Law Group, PLLC in Miami, Florida, we help unhappy families find peace of mind. Read on to discover how a married couple can separate in Florida, despite the state not recognizing or enforcing legal separation, and how living separately can affect child custody and other agreements. Call us at (305) 701-2901 to schedule a strategy session.
Does Florida Recognize Legal Separation?
While most states will recognize a separation agreement as a legally binding agreement, Florida is one of six states that does not recognize or enforce legal separation. While you and your spouse can draft and sign a separation agreement for the division of marital property, child custody, visitation, or spousal support, the court won’t enforce the agreement terms if either spouse fails to adhere to the agreement.
Your legal separation lawyer can help you determine how best to represent your interests in a separation agreement. However, know that your documentation is only a personal agreement between you and your spouse and is not legally binding.
That said, spouses with written agreements tend to follow their instructions more frequently than spouses with verbal agreements.
Why Separate Rather than Divorce?
Every family structure is different, and married couples have various reasons to seek a separation rather than a dissolution of marriage, including:
- Religious objections to divorce.
- Spousal benefits such as employer-provided family health insurance, government benefits from social security, and the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act.
- Filing taxes as married rather than single to claim additional deductions.
- Potential alimony requests in the future and the factoring in of the length of time married.
- A trial separation helps them decide whether divorce is necessary.
- One or both spouses hope for a reconciliation in the marriage.
Alternatives to Legal Separation in Florida
While Florida courts do not recognize legal separation, experienced family lawyers recommend drafting a postnuptial agreement. The only difference between a postnup and a prenup is that you and your spouse sign a prenup before entering the marriage, while you can enter a postnup at any time during the marriage.
Postnuptial agreements can include terms for:
- Division of marital assets, including the marital home
- Alimony payment amounts
- Limited custody and child support agreements
- Division of assets held before the marriage to avoid equitable distribution by the court
Postnuptial agreements are complex legal documents requiring several conditions to be legally binding. Knowledgeable divorce lawyers have seen cases where couples failed to draft their postnuptial agreements correctly, and the court rejected the terms of the agreement.
Child Custody, Child Support, and Spousal Support
You or your spouse may file a petition with the court for child or spousal support without dissolution, allowing the spouse who resides in the marital home to seek support from the spouse who moved out of the shared residence.
To petition for child custody or time sharing (visitation), you must ask the court to legally establish a child’s primary residence. In rare circumstances, the court may require proof of parentage for child custody.
It is unlikely that either spouse will need to prove parentage of a child, as the court will assume parentage of the spouses for children born within a certain period of the marriage. However, if requesting custody of stepchildren, the non-biological parent must request the establishment of parentage for the unrelated child.
While you and your spouse may come to a specific agreement regarding child custody and support, the court may determine that other arrangements would better suit the needs of the child. However, when the separation agreement details custody and support arrangements better than what the court would recommend, the court typically upholds the terms of the separation agreement.
How To Find a Legal Separation Attorney Near Me
Separation and divorce are just some of the practice areas for family lawyers. You can search online for a “separation lawyer near me” or ask friends and family for recommendations. Be sure to read the reviews thoroughly for each law firm you find to make an informed decision.
Compare each attorney's website for information about:
- Years in practice
- Attitude toward divorce, separation, and mediation
- Customer reviews and testimonials
- Networking connections with finance managers, mental health professionals, and other life management professionals
Let the Family Lawyers at Miami Family Law Group, PLLC in Miami, FL, Help You Divorce Yourself from the Fight
The Miami Family Law Group, PLLC has over 25 years of experience serving families in Miami. We strive to assist our clients with all aspects of the divorce and separation processes, including conflict resolution, therapist referrals, and finance management referrals. We will help you divorce yourself from the fight and find peace of mind as you make a fresh start.
Call us today at Miami Family Law Group, PLLC at (305) 701-2901 or contact us online to schedule a strategy session for legal advice with a legal separation attorney in Miami, FL.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
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