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Is legal separation available in Florida?

Many states offer an alternative to divorce that is commonly known as "legal separation." Legal separation allows spouse to live apart but to not actually file for divorce. Where available, legal separation may be preferable to divorce for any number of reasons, ranging from health care coverage to income tax savings. Usually in a legal separation, the rights, duties and obligations of each spouse, as well as how property will be divided is laid out in a legal document.

The document is then ratified by a court and filed with the county. The separation agreement is a contract that can then be enforced in the courts in the event the event one spouse fails to live up to his or her end of the deal. For better or worse, however, legal separation is not currently recognized by statute or case law in the state of Florida. The Sunshine State is one of only eight states in the U.S. that does not recognize some form of legal separation.

In Florida, spouses are either married or they are divorced. Of course, there is nothing under Florida law that prevents spouses from living apart, however in doing so, each spouse continues to maintain all of his or her rights and obligations within the marriage. While legal separation is not recognized, Florida family courts are willing to craft child custody and child support arrangements when two parents are no longer living in the same home.

For a family court to recognize a married couple as separated for the purposes of child custody and support matters, it will examine several factors. These include, but are not limited to, which spouse the minor children are living with, whether financial accounts and household expenses are joint or separate, and how long the spouses have lived apart. Anyone contemplating living separately from their spouse should seek the advice of an experienced Florida family law attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Separation," accessed May 16, 2018

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