When you are ready to move on from a marriage, there are usually two main options — divorce and separation. Most states offer both, but Florida is one of just a few states that does not. In Florida, you primarily have two options — divorce or separate, but on your own terms. So while you can technically separate from your spouse and live apart, there is no legal separation. The courts have no control over anything once you separate.
So, what if you cannot divorce due to religious reasons? What if you want to stay married for the kids or for health insurance reasons but cannot stand to continue living with your spouse? Is moving to another state your only option?
Before you pack your bags, consider how you can separate in practice. There are ways to physically separate from your husband or wife and still get legal protections. Here are a couple ways to go about it.
If you and your spouse no longer get along and you need some space and time apart, you or your spouse can simply move out. You do not need the court’s approval to do so. One of you can stay in the marital home, while the other can stay with friends or family or rent an apartment for a period of time.
You can create verbal or written agreements as to what is expected during this trial separation, but the court cannot enforce anything. If you ask your spouse to pay a certain amount of money in child support during the separation, but he or she refuses to do so, then you are out of luck. There is nothing the court can do, so keep this in mind. Any agreements or decisions you make during this time are not legally binding.
However, this is a good option if you are unsure about divorce and do not want to rush into anything. It gives you time to decide whether you want to work things out or proceed with divorce.
Florida does recognize limited divorce, which works similar to a legal separation. In a limited divorce, a couple can legally separate. Such a decision allows a couple to split up but the process is not as complete as a full divorce.
Couples often use limited divorce to establish space between each other. They may not be ready for a full divorce, either emotionally or financially. A limited divorce also allows couples to remain legally married, which can be helpful for social, religious or economic reasons. Some religions frown upon divorce. A person may not want the stigma attached to divorce. Some couples decide to stay married for reasons related to health insurance and retirement pensions.
In a limited divorce, you can use the court to resolve disputes regarding property division and child custody and support. You can also order alimony payments, whereas you cannot do any of this with a trial separation.
For a limited divorce, you just need to choose one reason — voluntary separation, cruelty, or desertion. You will most likely choose voluntary separation unless there are special circumstances involved, such as a spouse abusing you or leaving you.
In any case, keep in mind that a limited divorce is just that: it is limited. You are not fully divorced, so you cannot remarry until you get a full divorce and it has been finalized. Also, limited divorces are seen as controversial, as they come with issues. One of the biggest problems is that it keeps couples from moving forward. They tend to ignore certain issues, such as assets or children, and this causes confusion. It is best to deal with all the issues at once or just move forward with a full divorce.
Create Legal Protections
Simply moving out of the marital home is a short-term solution to get your spouse, but it offers no legal protections. It is in your best interests to protect yourself no matter how you decide to separate from your spouse. You can do so with documents such as petitions and postnuptial agreements. You can file petitions for support, even if you are not getting divorced. These can help you get money for child support and alimony, if applicable.
However, the best way to ensure you get support and other legal rights is to create a postnuptial agreement. This is like a prenuptial agreement, but it is created during the marriage, after the wedding has taken place. Many couples create one when they are on the verge of divorce, but they can be created at any time during the marriage, such as when there is concern over assets.
This document covers all your rights and responsibilities during marriage. You can also use it to set rules and guidelines if you decide to separate. A postnuptial agreement can also outline things such as child custody, parenting time, child support and alimony. Just keep in mind that all postnuptial agreements must meet the guidelines of the State of Florida.
Seek Legal Help
Legal separation is usually an option for couples who want to split up but do not want the stigma attached to a divorce. While Florida does not offer that option, there are some alternatives.
If you simply cannot live with your spouse any longer, Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you move on. There are viable options besides divorce that allow for legal protections, if that is what you desire. Learn more by calling (954) 346-6464 or filling out the online form.