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Divorce Vs. Legal Separation: Your Legal Rights If You and Your Spouse are Physically Separated

Instead of getting a divorce, couples sometimes choose to simply live apart in separate homes.  A few common reasons for opting to live separately include:

  • Personal Preference: Some spouses do not see a need to get divorced when neither of them plan to remarry in the near future and do not want to go through the full divorce process.
  • Religion: Some couples wish to remain married for religious reasons if they have a religious objection to divorce.
  • Insurance Concerns: Couples may want to remain legally married to ensure one of the spouses can continue receiving insurance coverage through the other spouse’s insurance provider:
  • Taxes: Couples may want to keep paying taxes at the married rate.
  • Uncertainty/Trial Period: Spouses may hope they will eventually reconcile but need to spend some time apart.
  • Children: If a couple is worried the concept of divorce may be too difficult for their children to swallow, they may choose to first separate but postpone their divorce until after their children leave home.

Whatever the reason a person may decide to delay divorce, the experienced family law attorneys at our office can help you understand what your legal rights are during your separation. Although there is no formal legal status of “legal separation” in Florida, Florida law provides for court-ordered child support and alimony if a couple is physically separate.   However, a judge will not enter an order related to property division unless it is related to support.

There are three primary ways to enter into legal agreements to formalize the terms of your separation:

  • Separation Agreements: Spouses may sign a separation agreement, which is a legally binding contract signed by both spouses. However, in Florida, the court cannot approve this agreement or resolve disputes that arise from this agreement.
  • Petition for Support Unconnected to a Dissolution of Marriage:  A spouse may be ordered to pay child support and alimony (if applicable) without a divorce and establish a parenting plan as well.
  • Postnuptial Agreements: A couple may choose to enter into a postnuptial agreement that specifies the terms and conditions of the division and distribution of assets, debts, and support in the event of divorce.

Reach Out to Us for Help

At Cotter & Zelman, P.A., we understand there are a multitude of reasons you may want separate prior to seeking a divorce. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you understand and formalize your legal rights during the separation period. To discuss how you can draft a separation agreement, petition for support, or postnuptial agreement, please contact our Winter Park family law office today.

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