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Legal Separation


There are many reasons a couple may decide to live in different households, and not file for divorce. For example, a couple may decide to try living apart while they work through a particularly difficult time in their marriage. Perhaps there has been infidelity or there are other trust issues. Maybe there are concerns about chemical dependency and how that may impact the children. For religious reasons, some couples choose not to divorce. There may be financial reasons to remain married, such as health insurance coverage for the family. Another financial motivation could be the length of time already married balanced against the length of time one must remain married in order to qualify for spousal benefits for social security or a pension. Each couple’s motivation is unique to their own set of circumstances.

Legal separation in Florida – Florida Law

There is no law in Florida that specifically governs separation of married spouses. There are, however, a number of laws that are in place that can be used to accomplish the same goal.

Do I need an attorney to legally separate?

It’s best to allow an attorney well versed in family law to handle the legal separation. The attorney will know the laws and protect your rights, your property, and your children.

Issues include:

  • Child support;
  • Alimony;
  • Division of property;
  • Division of debt; and
  • Agreement on assets.

An attorney will first sort out the issues of child custody and child support during the separation. In certain cases, alimony may also be awarded. These agreements will then be filed with the court.

There is no court filing to address the division of property, debt, and assets. However, a skilled attorney can help you determine how to divide these things. Next, the attorney will write up a contract for both parties to sign. While it is not filed with the court the way a divorce decree would be, it remains a legally binding contract that both parties are expected to follow.

This contract can address such things as who gets to live in the house, whether it can be sold, who gets to attend what games on the jointly held season tickets to their favorite team. It can identify which party is responsible for paying which debts. The agreement can also address things like retirement accounts. The contract is basically designed so that both parties are clear on what assets they have, what the mutual expectation and understanding is about how those will be handled now that the parties are living apart, and what responsibilities the parties share (or don’t share) regarding childrearing.

A postnuptial agreement can also be written up. This agreement governs what happens to the parties’ property, assets, and debt, should the couple eventually divorce. This provides a clear road map for the parties.

What steps should I take if my spouse and I are discussing a separation?

Separating after a marriage can be emotionally exhausting. A family law attorney, experienced with both the law and the emotional strife that comes with separation, can help guide you through the process. She will discuss with you what possible alternatives are for child custody, support, and division of property, debts, and assets.

Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. is an experienced attorney, with a practice that includes assisting with legal separations, and other areas of family law. Contact us today to see how we can assist you in ensuring that you are protected.

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