A question we frequently encounter in our family law practice is whether Florida provides for court-adjudicated legal separation. Florida is one of only eight states that does not have a statute acknowledging legal separation as a status. However, couples that desire to separate without divorcing can avail themselves of the courts when it comes to their child custody and financial support. The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. can assist clients who are not ready or willing to divorce to obtain their objectives for their marriage and their children.
Why some Couples prefer a Separation rather than a Divorce
Some couples are experiencing a troubled marriage and are not ready to divorce. In lieu of filing for divorce, they opt for a trial separation and establish different residences. Other couples have religious reasons for not wanting to divorce, yet they feel they cannot continue living together. Some couples have two residences for business or professional purposes. Others no longer desire to live together but wish to delay divorce so that they can be married long enough to qualify for Social Security and pension benefits. Or, some wish to maintain health benefits derived from the working spouse for the benefit of the non-working spouse.
Legal Options for Separated Couples in Florida
While Florida does not provide the option of court-ordered legal separation, couples that wish to formalize their living apart still have the option of a private separation agreement in the form of a contract between them. This can provide some definition to the terms of the separation and include terms addressing spousal support, bank accounts, child support and custody, the marital residence, division of property, and bill-paying. The spouses must enter into the contract willingly and comply with the terms. A court could later enforce the agreement as a legally binding contract.
Petition for Support Disconnected with Dissolution of Marriage
In the absence of a private agreement, state law does not leave separated couples in limbo with respect to custody, visitation and support. Florida Statute 61.10 provides that in a situation where relief is not afforded to a petitioner in some other proceeding (i.e. Dissolution of Marriage), a spouse living apart from his or her partner can ask the court for a parenting plan as well as an adjudication of obligation to maintain the spouse and minor child financially. The custodial spouse can file a Petition for Support Disconnected with Dissolution of Marriage with a Florida Court and obtain court-ordered support from the non-custodial parent. The court may also adjudicate matters involving establishment of the child’s principal residence and visitation with the other spouse.
A couple that is contemplating divorce in the future may want to consider a post-nuptial agreement that will determine the division of assets and debts, spousal and child support, and other financial matters in the event of a divorce in the future. This can help reduce financial conflicts at the time of divorce, making the transition to single life easier.
The Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. provides caring and excellent legal services to individuals throughout West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Lake Worth, Jupiter, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton. We also assist residents of Broward, Hendry, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie Counties. If you are contemplating a separation or divorce, please call our West Palm Beach Divorce Attorney at (561) 429-3924.